Mike Hayes, the former brigadier general who heads Maryland's state office of military and federal affairs, said contractors would have to reorganize the way they perform government work.
"The feeling is, there'll have to be a complete reordering of business," he said.
Some military bases in Maryland already are feeling the pinch. Civil engineers at Joint Base Andrews in Prince George's County have stopped all nonemergency work orders because of budget constraints.
"I think that's only going to get worse over time," Col. Greg N. Urtso, vice commander of the 11th Wing at the base, told state officials this month.
Barney Michel, president of a business association of contractors to Aberdeen Proving Ground, said larger firms might be able to withstand cuts but smaller firms — dependent on fewer contracts and with more immediate cash flow needs — have expressed frustration and concern.
"The smaller businesses are not quite as well-structured to support this slowdown," said Michel, an executive with the contractor SAIC and president of the Army Alliance.
Already, he said, he's hearing from businesses that government officials are keeping contracts on the sideline and not committing to new deals, just in case sequestration occurs.
But he believes Obama and congressional leaders will reach a deal before the automatic cuts take effect.
"We do not want to be alarmist," Michel said. "While it's a small potential for it occurring, it's a potentially large impact."
Projected job losses
Largest projected job losses from federal budget cuts, for 2012-13*:
New York 70,010
* Projections include public- and private-sector job losses.
Sources: George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis; Chmura Economics & Analysis