By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than two thirds of U.S. voters back increased military spending given growing threats to America's security, and would be more likely to support candidates who agree, the Aerospace Industries Association trade group said Wednesday.
AIA, the largest aerospace and defense industry group, said lawmakers should heed a new Harris poll it commissioned, which showed that a majority of voters across party lines support lifting budget caps imposed under the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011.
"The new Congress should sit up and listen," AIA President and Chief Executive Officer Marion Blakey said in a statement, noting that voter perceptions of Congress were at historic lows.
She urged Congress to end what she called "mindless budget caps" that were reducing revenues across the U.S. defense sector and hitting small companies particularly hard.
"Without additional relief from BCA caps, companies in the defense industrial base will continue to downsize or be forced out of the defense business altogether," AIA said in its annual report on the aerospace and defense sector.
Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co and other big arms makers have joined U.S. military officials in urging Congress to ease or reverse mandatory budget cuts that are due to resume in fiscal 2016, after partial relief in 2014 and 2015.
AIA said the sector's total military sales were flat at $87.3 billion in 2014, with a 9.2 percent increase in arms exports only partially offsetting reductions in spending by the U.S. Defense Department.
U.S. spending for development and procurement of new weapons was expected to decline by $86 billion from 2016 to 2019 under the mandatory budget caps, AIA said.
It said those cuts would have "significant long-term consequences" to the U.S. defense industrial base and hundreds of thousands of associated jobs.
The Harris poll showed that 78 percent of voters believed Islamic State and other groups posed increasing risk to the United States, and 69 percent of voters backed higher spending on national security.
Seventy-three percent of voters told Harris they believed the United States was less secure due to planned cuts of $1 trillion in military spending from 2012 to 2022.
The Harris poll of 800 registered U.S. voters was conducted from Nov. 13 to Nov. 16, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)