Federal budget cuts will affect defense spending and the economy in Southern Arizona, but it is unclear to what extent, says a regional economics specialist at the University of Arizona.

Michael Proctor, vice oresident for regional development at the UA, said in an AZ Illustrated Metro interview that Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson and Fort Huachuca near Sierra Vista have a significant combined impact in the region.

Their economic influence spreads beyond boundaries of the two bases, Proctor said, with an estimated 25,000 defense jobs south of the Gila River.

In addition, defense contractors in 2011 accounted for $11 billion in Arizona's economy, with up to $7 billion in Southern Arizona, Proctor said. The estimated 120 contractors provide 150,000 jobs, he said.

The UA contributes to and benefits from the military also, Proctor said, including educating engineers, defense employees and more.

Between $30 million and $40 million a year in research contracts are funded by the defense agencies and defense industries, Proctor said.

That money could soon be significantly reduced due to budget cuts, he said. For example, UA researchers under defense-related contracts have been told the later years of contracted work may get less funding.

“We had a program in Yuma that was aimed at educating engineers, and that was sequestered,” Proctor said.

Ashley Grove is a journalism student and an intern for Arizona Public Media