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Unless Congress acts, the Defense Department faces some $55 billion in cuts after the first of the year. The cuts are part of what’s known as sequestration — automatic across the board spending cuts to both defense and nondefense government spending set in motion by last year’s debt-ceiling fight.

Salaries for uniformed personnel are the one major thing that’s protected. Otherwise, it’s about a 10 percent cut to everything from Pentagon civilian staff to the acquisition of multimillion-dollar aircraft, like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, says the 2013 budget calls for buying 29 of these jets, made by defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Sequestration might cut that to 26, he says.

So what would that mean to the people who work on the jet? Immediately, Harrison says, not much because the F-35s on the assembly line in January were ordered and paid for in past budgets.

“What it will affect is those additional planes that the military was going to order,” says Harrison. “So there’ll be fewer planes coming into the assembly line.”

The more immediate effects would be on civilian Defense Department employees. Harrison says as many as 100,000 could face furlough if the sequester hits Jan. 2.