Navy secretary: Budget cuts could cripple Bremerton economy

Navy secretary: Budget cuts could cripple Bremerton economy
BREMERTON, Wash. -- The deadline is ticking on automatic defense spending cuts if D.C. lawmakers can't shore-up the nation's deficit by March. Wednesday, the Secretary of the Navy visited Bremerton to tell sailors what that could mean for them and for the local economy.

Navy secretary: Budget cuts could cripple Bremerton economy

In short -- the Navy could soon face billions of dollars in cuts, which would mean millions in cuts to bases around Puget Sound.

The Naval Shipyard would close, dozens of jets at NAS Whidbey would be grounded and thousands of sailors would move away.

"That's going to really hurt the economy around here," said Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy. "I imagine there could be a few businesses close."

All of it could potentially cripple local businesses.

"The people who run the convenience stores, the service stations, that run the dry cleaners, the restaurants, things like that - they're going to feel an impact too," Mabus said.

Debbie Crowl, who helps run a local bakery in Bremerton, says sailors and their families buy cookies and cakes here everyday.

"Every person in my family's got somebody that's been with the Navy," she said.

And without the Navy?

"We'll dry up -- I can't even imagine this town surviving," she said.

Congress is trying avoid automatic defense cuts from kicking-in on March 1. If they don't agree on a deal to handle the nation's deficit by then, Mabus says the Navy will lose more than $4 billion while bases around Puget Sound lose $90 million. Mabus says carrier groups could be split-up and moved to San Diego or back East.

The Blue Angels could be eliminated too.

And some of Crowl's favorite customers would leave too.

"I don't even know what would happen," she said. "I can't even imagine."