Tens of thousands of defense industry workers risk suddenly losing their jobs if automatic federal spending cuts are not averted in the next few weeks, the chief executive officer of the defense contracting firm Northrop Grumman said Monday.
"We can't stand here today and predict what will happen, even though it is just a few weeks away, because we will each have to make those decisions based on the environment at the time," Northrop Grumman chief Wes Bush said during a panel discussion at the National Press Club.
Mr. Bush and three other defense industry CEOs were appealing Monday to members of Congress to reach a budget deal and avoid the automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration.
Beginning on Jan. 2, the federal government would have to cut about $100 billion from its budget next year if sequestration occurs. The Pentagon would have to reduce its spending by $50 billion in 2013.
Before last month's elections, defense companies had planned to issue Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notices to employees in preparation for the automatic spending cuts. But the White House asked the companies to delay that action, saying it would cover the cost of potential lawsuits.
Under the WARN Act, businesses with more than 100 employees are legally obligated to issue 60 days of advance notice to employees who might be laid off.