Potential Navy budget cuts loom large over shipbuilders

(CBS News) WASHINGTON -- The budget dispute in Washington is about to have a very real impact on the people who build and repair our military ships. The industry says 100,000 jobs are on the line because the Navy is planning to delay the repair of nearly two dozen ships. The official announcement is coming tomorrow.

Tens of thousands of workers -- just in the shipyards of Virginia -- are at risk of losing their jobs because of the budget cuts. One of them is Mike Patterson, a pipefitter at BAE systems.

"The major concern is the layoffs," said Patterson. "When these jobs run out, there won't be any behind them."

Watch: Military already impacted by looming spending cuts below

The Navy's planned budget cuts of $10.3 billion will fall hardest in the shipyards. They will involve the cancellation of maintenance and modernizations on 22 war ships this year.

What will that mean for the industry?

"It is catastrophic to our industry, to our employees and, equally as important, to the readiness of those ships," said Bill Clifford, the President of BAE Systems ship repair.

Clifford says some Navy destroyers and cruisers will lose critical upgrades to their weapons systems.

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"If we don't do that, we are sending a ship out in harm's way that may not be as fit to fight as it should be," Cliffords said. "It doesn't have the current upgrades to fight the most current threats."

The formal cancellation of shipyard contracts starts tomorrow, and layoffs could start in May, but the anger of workers like Mike Patterson is aimed at Washington now.

"If we don't do our job, we get written up for it. Who is writing Congress up for not doing their damn job?"

  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.