POLITICS

Sequestration 2013: Air Traffic controllers, TSA faces furloughs

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The frustration of waiting in airport security lines can drive people to take extreme measures. Patricia Kelly drove back to Virginia from California last December.

This time, however, Kelly is flying from Virginia to San Diego, With short wait times at Dulles, she timed her trip well.

But earlier Friday at Reagan National, the lines were longer. And while travelers were waiting for security screening, at the White House came a warning of even longer waits if Congress can't solve the sequestration problem.

“Delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we have fewer controllers on staff,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

And it’s not just fewer controllers either. Furloughs would extend to TSA workers. Furloughs, according to Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia, "representing as much as 10 percent of the aviation workforce on any given day" leading to "less security, longer wait times … and lost economic opportunities.”

Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski agreed with Connelly. In a statement, she said the sequestration will have a devastating effect on the economy.

“Sequester will cripple air transportation, causing ripple effects across the economy and costing us jobs we can’t afford to lose. These are real impacts in real communities with real consequences,” she said. “It will cost America a million jobs we can’t afford to lose.”

Duyen Nguyen needed about 40 minutes to clear customs after his 18 hour flight from Vietnam. He can't imagine doubling that time or more on his next flight.

“I think it'd be very bad, as soon as you get out of the plane you're tired and people waiting? Little kids and all that? I don't think that's a good idea,” Nguyen says.

But if sequestration happens, long wait times may be just the beginning. As LaHood says, control towers at 100 small to mid-size airports may be closed altogether.

Sequestration effect in Virginia

Meanwhile, in parts of Virginia close to the capitol, there's some acceptance of dysfunction across the river.

Salomon Flores owns Cafe Italia in Crystal City, where the majority of business comes from government workers. Last year, that business was booming.

This year, however, the reservation book is wide open thanks to the threat of furloughs and pay cuts.

"It's gonna hurt a lot of people and it's already hurting us," Flores says.

At the headquarters Department of the Army, Al Raub has spent the past several months preparing workers for the worst.

"If our efforts could be towards what our job is instead of our efforts to plan sequestration," he says.

Local governments are also already taking hits. Leaders in Fairfax County say the uncertainty created by Congress has already flattened tax levels, which could mean cuts to schools and libraries - right as the recession was winding down.

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