Fairfax County: Sequestration’s Test

Photograph by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The U.S. Army Fife and Drum Corp. during a celebration of the 237th birthday of the U.S. Army on the grounds of George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Virginia.

If any place in the U.S. feels the sting of federal budget cuts, it’ll be Virginia’s Fairfax County.

The home to George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Central Intelligence Agency headquarters is more dependent on the U.S. government than ever.

Federal spending as a share of Fairfax County’s economy has almost doubled since 2002, to 14.4 percent.

While less than half the size of Luxembourg at 407 square miles, the county just west of the nation’s capital boasts a $194 billion economy that is bigger than Hungary’s.

Now, Fairfax County’s 1.1 million residents are bracing for the effects of sequestration. Localities — from Fairfax to Pine Bluff, Arkansas — reliant on federal dollars will take a disproportionate hit from reductions that Goldman Sachs & Co. estimates will subtract 0.6 percentage point from U.S. economic growth this year.

“It’s become obvious that our closeness to the federal government is both good news and bad news,” said Sharon Bulova, a Democrat who has led the Fairfax Board of Supervisors since 2009.

Fairfax’s wealth and educated workforce, with median family income of $119,634 and 29 percent of its 25-and-older population holding graduate degrees, will help it avoid hard times. Still,sequestration will test those strengths.

Since 2004, Fairfax has been the nation’s top recipient of federal contract dollars, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Four of the county’s top six employers — Lockheed Martin Corp., Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp. and SAIC Inc. — are among the 20 biggest federal vendors.

See the full report by Bloomberg’s Lorraine Woellert.

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