Military spending has been "cut to the bone" and deeper reductions could cost the nation tens of thousands of defense jobs, a coalition of manufacturers warned Wednesday in pleading for a special deficit-reduction committee to spare Pentagon budgets.
The Aerospace Industries Association and top executives from companies such as Boeing and Pratt & Whitney said reductions beyond the 10-year, $350 billion cut in this summer's debt accord would have a devastating impact on a defense industry that Marion C. Blakey, the association's president, described as "fragile."
"American leadership in aerospace and defense is being threatened by forces in Congress and the administration," the association said. "The security of our troops, our technological future and our economic stability are all at risk. We must preserve jobs across the nation that keep our nation strong."
Defense spending has nearly doubled since the Sept. 11 terror attacks to more than $500 billion. That spending is separate from the more than $1 trillion that has covered the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade.
The association, on its website, said U.S. aerospace sales in 2010 were $214.5 billion, another record year. "This was the seventh straight year of increasing sales, the last few of which were achieved in a very challenging economic environment."
The association, which launched a campaign to press its case called "Second to None," said it had lobbied members of the deficit "supercommittee," including Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. The association said it would press other panelists working on a formula for at least $1.5 trillion in spending cuts. If the panel is unable to reach agreement by Nov. 23, or Congress rejects its plan, automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion would hit the government accounts, with half coming from defense spending.
"Our message to the administration and Congress is slow down," Blakey told reporters at a news conference, adding that "defense has been cut to the bone."
Faced with a deficit expected to exceed $1 trillion this year, budget-conscious lawmakers are looking to slash government spending and the Pentagon budget could be part of the mix. The effort is driven in part by tea party-backed freshmen elected on their deficit-cutting agenda.
The association and company executives said the industry alone is responsible for more than 1 million jobs and significant cuts could lead to widespread layoffs that would push the unemployment rate above 9.1 percent.
"We understand the nation has to balance its books, but we've already given at the office," said Chuck Gray, vice president and chief operating officer of Frontier Electronic Systems in Stillwater, Okla.
The officials also warned that deeper cuts would undermine the industry's work on research and design.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to finalize a $513 billion defense spending bill that freezes spending at current levels.
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