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Sequester could have big impact on Coast Guard, Diligence

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- We're just days away from major federal spending cuts going into effect if the White House and Congress cannot reach a compromise.

The sequester is a series of automatic cuts that will affect most government agencies, as well as thousands of people in our area, including the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Diligence.

The Diligence and her crew came home today from two months at sea. Now they face the uncertainty of a Washington stalemate.

The Obama administration says the threat of massive federal spending cuts could include a nearly 25-percent reduction in what the Coast Guard does, including everything from setting navigational aids to fighting drug smuggling and illegal aliens.

For the crew of the Diligence, the impacts could be more direct.

"We have a 48-year-old ship, and we're working hard to get her put back together and turned around," Cmdr. Douglas Goodwin said. "It's maintenance intensive, and we're scheduled to go back out again in about two-and-a-half months, so we have some work to do, and we'll have to take it as it comes."

Beyond taking care of the ship, Diligence crewmembers and their family hope to avoid a person impact.

"We just pray they don't make any cuts so it doesn't affect the jobs of the people in the military and in the Coast Guard," said Ashley Jackson, who's husband serves on the Diligence.

"If they cut across the board depending on what cuts they make it could affect our pay it could affect our health care, hopefully not our health care but depending on what they cut it could affect my family," crew member Jarret Andrews said.

Military pay is exempt, but that will force sharper cuts within the Defense Department, particularly training and maintenance.

With the possibility of more than 20,000civilian defense employees in North Carolina alone facing furlough, the sequester could hurt the economy because the cuts drain demand and affect companies that do business with the government.

"We're talking about cutting this and cutting that," Rep. Walter Jones (R-3rd District) said. "It's time for Congress to look at top priorities, realize that we're in bad financial shape and look at the priorities that we can fund and fund those priorities and one being our military and civilian workforce."

Cmdr. Goodwin says the Coast Guard headquarters and the Department of Homeland Security are working hard on potential sequester options.

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