Defense industry group argues big Defense cuts will further hurt economy

A top defense and aerospace industry trade organization is pressing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to resist deep Pentagon budget cuts as officials grapple with the nation’s troubled finances.

In a letter to Boehner, Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) President Marion Blakey argues substantial Defense budgets cuts would spawn new job losses and further damage the already injured economy.

The letter was sent in the midst of ongoing White House-congressional talks about raising the nation’s debt limit before a Treasury Department-stated Aug. 2 deadline. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Capitol Hill and defense industry sources tell The Hill that negotiators have discussed national security spending cuts as large as $700 billion over a decade; that is almost twice as much as the $400 billion in security cuts by 2023 that President Obama has called for.

“Deeply cutting defense during these tough economic times could make our nation’s fiscal and broader economic situation even worse,” Blakey wrote. “Major cuts to defense would create further layoffs and great uncertainty for them and their families and undercut economic gains.”

The Hill obtained a copy of the letter, dated June 30.

The letter was sent just days before the government released more troubling jobs figures on Friday that showed only 18,000 new jobs were added in June. The same report showed unemployment rose to 9.2., up from 9.1 percent in May.

Defense and aerospace workers are part of “the manufacturing and economic backbone of our country,” and therefore should be shielded from cuts, the AIA boss wrote.

AIA and its member companies “understand the unique national security threats posed by skyrocketing debt,” Blakey told Boehner, “but we believe those threats will only be compounded if funding for the Department of Defense is cut precipitously during this critical stage of budget reduction negotiations.”

In the letter, Blakey argued that any cuts should be made at the Pentagon.

“Any cuts to defense must be generated in a careful and thoughtful manner, guided by our military leaders,” she wrote.

Before he departed, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates persuaded President Obama to allow the Pentagon to lead a soup-to-nuts national security review that will inform from where his desired $400 billion in cuts should come.

That review “will help guide our nation’s future force structure and ensure that we have the capabilities required to protect our nation and its citizens,” according to Blakey. “No action should be taken to cut defense until that review has been completed.”

As the nation’s finances have gotten worse, members of Congress from both parties have said Pentagon spending reductions should be on the table.

The secret Senate Democratic budget resolution drafted by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and shared with the White House suggests even larger cuts to the Pentagon which would see its budget slashed by more than $800 billion over 10 years, according to sources.

But the three Defense spending bills that have been moving through Congress so far feature only modest cuts.

ADVERTISEMENT
During a Thursday House Budget Committee hearing, Gordon Adams, who ran Defense and foreign affairs budgeting for the Clinton administration, and former Sen. James Talent (R-Mo.) sparred over future Pentagon funding needs.

Adams argued Defense cuts being considered can be made without sacrificing America’s military advantage.

Talent, however, warned that significant Defense budgets are still needed -- even after a decade of sizable growth in the post-9/11 era -- because the U.S. military’s hardware is aging, torn up from war and in needed of being replaced.

The two did agree that the Pentagon needs to get back to building its budgets and hardware portfolios with strategy and likely threats driving such plans.

For the last decade, Adams said, “We’ve lived in a time where it’s as if defense budgeting is not linked to resources.”