With the sequestration deadline drawing closer on Capitol Hill, Congress is speeding toward a fiscal cliff.
If they don't find common ground this year, $1.2 trillion will be cut across the board - in defense and domestic spending, crippling Washington-based programs and contractors.
And local leaders are bracing for an economic emergency.
At the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, elected officials are looking to diversify the region's economy, away from the federal government. As Congress debates deficit spending, Uncle Sam will likely have a lesser - although still important - role here.david robertson
"We're very fortunate that our region's underpinnings have been federal employment and procurement," says David Robertson, executive director of COG. "That's great. Except most people expect in the future that will go down."
With the sequestration deadline looming, local businesses and contractors are bracing for the worst - major cutbacks in federal spending. Still, economists from across our region believe the local economy will still remain stable thanks to major growth in science and technology industries.
Robert Templin, Northern Virginia Community College president, warns that the jobs of the future in Washington will require serious studies in math and science.
"If we see major cutbacks, there will be an immediate jolt in the economy that will result in people losing their jobs," Templin says. "But over the decade we will continue to see that sector of our economy continue to grow and prosper. There will be economic opportunities."
And simply getting a high school diploma will not be enough.
With or without heavy financial backing from the feds, Templin predicts software engineering, cyber security and telecommunications will thrive across the region, thanks to international diversity and specialized university programs here.