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The State of NoVa
Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 02/28/2013

A scene from Quantico, on the front line of ‘sequestration’s’ looming cuts


The streets are almost empty around lunchtime on a recent day in Quantico, Va., as the contractors, and the restaurants and coffee shops that serve them, brace for federal budget cuts known as “sequestration.” (Jeremy Borden - The Washington Post)

The brown swivel chair is empty, and the American flag-lined streets outside are almost still.

The area surrounding the sprawling Marine Corps Base at Quantico is one of the outside-the-beltway’s front lines of looming cuts known as “sequestration” that, to those here, come with a confusing name but an obvious consequence. The area is made up largely of active and retired military as well as federal law enforcement personnel.

And then there are the folks that cut hair and wait tables, guys like Dewitt Carr.

Quantico or “Q-Town,” just 500 strong, sits in the center of the Marine Corps base, a picture of small town Virginia that happens to be uniquely guarded by a Marine asking for a driver’s license to get to it. The sprawling campus of towering trees, campus-like buildings, a golf course and streams of jogging military — fluorescent safety belts as prevalent as flat-top haircuts — is also home to those whose life depends on a coffee break, meal or haircut.

Carr’s chair costs just nine bucks a pop, and he says that while he can do more than a number two clipper and the clean buzz cut prevalent for men on base, that’s where most of his income comes from. Still, defense contractors are more than a third of his business — and if their salary gets cut, he said he knows his barber chair is an afterthought.

“It will trickle down to everybody, just like everything else,” Carr said. “We’re the bottom guys on the totem poll.”

The talk is the same down the street at Sam’s Restaurant Inn, where, at a different location in town, the Qura family opened a family friendly restaurant and bar in 1973 and have been humming along ever since.

Their business, brothers George and Jack Qura said, might be pizza, burgers and beer, but they’re as reliant on the government offices as others in the area. Already they’ve seen two government contracting offices close up in town, and the lunch crowd is thinner than they’d like.

Have they prepared for the looming cuts? They said they don't know what to expect. Besides, George Qura said, Washington’s latest crisis is just Washington’s latest crisis.

“There’s always something, people figure a way through it,” said George Qura, 35. “There is no doomsday scenario. [Or] maybe I’m naive.”

A Marine at the bar in his fatigues, munching on a salad and sipping a Coke, had a different view. Let the cuts come, he said. Eisenhower, he preached, warned against the growth of the “military industrial complex,” and the United States didn’t heed his words, said the Marine, who said he couldn’t be named because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media. He said he’s got Marines under him that can get projects on base done in half the time he pays civilian contractors to do the same job.

George Qura pushes back. Those civilians are the little guys. They’re raising families and working hard.

They both agree on one thing: The contractors are Northern Virginia’s lifeblood. Cut them out, and “your civilian populace would go into shambles,” the Marine said.

Carr, the barber, said he hasn’t made specific plans to deal with the cutbacks. Nobody seems to have any answers anyway.

“What is there to do?” he asked. “We’re dealing with a Congress that doesn’t care about jobs — not even their own.”

By  |  12:30 PM ET, 02/28/2013

 
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