Fiscal cliff deal prolongs holding pattern for defense contractors

Aerowire Velma Searcy

Brian Watt/KPCC

Velma Searcy of Lancaster-based Aerowire has been waiting for a big contract that could allow her to double her staff. She'll likely have to wait another 2 months.

 A lot of businesses that depend on military contracts awaited a fiscal cliff deal that would prevent potentially deep cuts to the U.S. defense budget. But the deal Congress passed delayed action on those cuts for two months.

Lancaster-based Aerowire builds the complex electrical harnesses that go in airplanes. Its customers have included Lockheed, the Sierra Nevada Corporation and NASA.  Company founder Velma Searcy kept a constant watch on the news during the New Year’s holiday. She's frustrated at what came out of Congress on the first night of 2013.

"It kinda just made me feel like we’re in limbo now," says Searcy, who founded Aerowire two years ago after she'd worked 30 years as an aerospace engineer.   She has 12 employees now, and she  says  a big contract on hold could allow her to hire a dozen more and keep them working for another three years. But with $50 billion in cuts hovering over the federal defense budget for this year, Searcy will have to wait another two months to find out about the contract.  

Her current employees are starting to ask whether they'll have jobs  in a few months. "Honestly, I can’t really give them an answer right now," she says.  

Searcy says she has enough work for them through March or April, but she can’t promise anything after that. 

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