Pentagon cuts to affect Georgia families

— The Department of Defense paid $12.6 billion in salary and wages in Georgia last year, according to U.S. Census data. Georgia also netted $12.4 billion in DOD contracts.

American troops’ top concern when Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, visited Afghanistan last week was budgets, not bombs. Troops are worried about how the families they left behind, who often work on military bases in civilian roles and who depend on government benefits, might be affected.

“They know they’re going to get what they need. We’re not going to deny folks in theater anything,” Chambliss said. “But family back home they’re concerned about, from a quality of life standpoint, what changes are going to be there. ... It was very much cause for concern on the part of our military personnel.”

Chambliss’ trip coincided with the official failure of the congressional supercommittee, the 12-member group created to trim future deficits with the knowledge that if they could not agree, it would trigger $1.2 trillion in spending cuts — half coming from the military.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in a letter to Congress last month, warned of “devastating” results if the cuts go through. And for Georgia politicians, the impact hits home in a state with nine military installations, including Fort Stewart, the largest Army base east of the Mississippi River — and other defense ties such as Lockheed Martin’s plant in Marietta.

The fallback cuts were negotiated as part of the Aug. 2 accord to raise the federal borrowing limit and enact long-term spending reforms. With the supercommittee unable to agree on a consensus path, the unpopular across-the-board cuts to the military is increasingly likely to go through.

The cuts, which do not affect war funding, will go into effect in January 2013.