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Observations from Capitol Hill by Jeff Krantz
Our message was straightforward and simple: we are seeing and feeling, first hand, how the indiscriminate nature of the Sequester is harming business and readiness. One of the most dramatic and illustrative examples involved a company that manufactures field equipment with a lifesaving application. As a result of a Sequester-related contract cancellation, this company was forced to reduce its workforce by approximately 75% (the company employed approximately 500 people). The obvious harm, in this instance, is the loss of jobs and the future availability of necessary pieces of field equipment. The unseen but potentially greater long term damage is the disbanding of an experienced workforce and the loss of capabilities required to readily and reliably manufacture equipment that requires no tolerance for error.
As proprietors of small businesses, we have worked for years to build our companies, often with limited resources and very little or no margin for error. We generally specialize, carving out niches in larger markets, where we compete on capability, service, and delivery. There are often few companies that can deliver our product or services, and the larger prime contractors, companies, and government entities (our customers) rely on us to execute and deliver on their commitments. Well over 50% of dollars spent in the defense supply chain flows down to Small Business (under 500 employees as defined by the SBA).
As our “Magnificent Seven” (I claimed the role of Yul Brynner) humped our way through the grand interiors of the House offices of the Capitol building to the considerably more prosaic Senate suites, what was most interesting to me was that the conversation never devolved into the partisan, finger pointing, and blame tirades that we as a nation have become accustomed to and which, at the moment, is seemingly the only discourse that is occurring while our leaders drive us Buzz Gunderson-style towards the edge of the cliff.
What did resound as an ongoing theme was the overwhelming sense of responsibility that we feel to our businesses, our employees, their families, our customers, and by extension our national security and the well-being of the future of our economy. And, what also struck me was the quality of the people who run our government. Whether elected or appointed, or of junior or senior rank, they displayed an extraordinary level of intelligence, commitment and insight that would give anyone on either side of the ideological spectrum a great deal of confidence that the best and the brightest are still drawn to national service.
Having said that, it is fair to say that the Sequester has and is eroding businesses, and if it continues, will have a lasting impact on their future. The victims are the working families which our elected officials hold to be the sacred core of our nation. As defense executives, we’ve risen to our positions by making the tough decisions and doing what is right for our businesses, without the option of shutting down -- we are asking the same of our national leadership
Harry Krantz Company