When it comes to the economy, most of the talk lately has focused on the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling. Sequestration — billions of dollars in scheduled federal spending cuts that could eliminate thousands of local jobs and damage our economy — has taken a back seat. That’s about to change.

While Congress did recently approve a deal to fend off certain elements of the fiscal cliff, their plan postponed decisions about sequestration for two months. If fully implemented, sequestration — imposed by the 2011 debt ceiling deal — would deeply affect the military and many other sectors of the local economy that receive funding from the federal government.

These cuts would have major implications for our region. We could see, for example, across the board rollbacks to defense spending, meaning thousands of San Diegans would lose their jobs and our recovering economy would suffer.

A plan to try and protect the economic prosperity of the region and our defense-related jobs and assets was developed and implemented by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, San Diego Chamber of Commerce and CONNECT in conjunction with the San Diego Military Advisory Council.

We launched “Operation San Diego” a year ago and board members and leaders from the partner organizations continue to meet with more than 100 officials and stakeholders to emphasize San Diego’s crucial stake in the national military economy. But we’re running out of time and we need your help to make a final push.

Tuesday’s Morning Report in Voice of San Diego linked to a story that quotes a Goldman Sachs economist saying the massive federal spending cuts are now a matter of “when” and not “if.” If he’s correct, we need to do more and we need to do it quickly.

So will you please join me in contacting your congressional representative and encouraging him/her to do whatever they can to preserve the backbone of San Diego’s economy?

San Diego’s military economy represents nearly 26 percent of all economic activity in the region, and Department of Defense spending translates into more than 310,000 jobs in San Diego County.

When speaking to the EDC and other local business groups recently, Sen. Dianne Feinstein proposed using a “scalpel instead of a cleaver” when making cuts. We couldn’t agree more. If sequestration does become a reality it will be important for our leaders in Washington to take a thoughtful approach, one that doesn’t undercut the current economic recovery while making the policy changes needed to foster long-term fiscal sustainability.

Contact your local congressional representative.

Mark Cafferty is President and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation.

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Mark Cafferty is the president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation.

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