Defense Industry Groups Press for Budget Deal, Relief From Sequester

By Sandra I. Erwin

Defense industry groups are pressing Congress to solve the fiscal impasse and bring some semblance of stability to federal budgets. They also are asking lawmakers to reverse the draconian spending cuts known as sequester that went into effect March 1.

In an Oct. 15 letter, industry CEOs and leaders of the Aerospace Industries Association and the National Defense Industrial Association “urge all parties to find a solution to address our nation’s fiscal challenges.”

A renewed appeal for an end to the crisis comes on the 15th day of the U.S. government shutdown and two days before the nation is expected to reach its borrowing limit. The letter is addressed to

President Obama, House and Senate leaders, and copies are being distributed to every member of Congress. The industry wants to convey a sense of urgency, arguing that the shutdown and sequester are draining billions of dollars from the U.S. economy and imperil thousands of defense sector jobs.

“As we continue a shutdown of our federal government and fast approach the deadline to raise the debt ceiling, it is essential that these problems along with the sequester quickly be addressed to avoid a national security and public safety deficit,” the letter says.

An appeal to end sequester comes as lawmakers attempt to cobble together a deal that would end the shutdown, extend the debt ceiling until Feb. 7 but only fund the government until Jan. 15 — the same day that the 2014 sequester kicks in. If a bipartisan deal can be reached — assuming the Senate and House can compromise over Affordable Care Act provisions — it would set the stage for a new deadline and a fresh round of negotiations to fund the second half of the fiscal year, and possibly give agencies some relief from sequester. The White House, congressional Democrats and

Republican defense hawks support a reversal or at least a delay to the automatic cuts, which slash $1.2 trillion from federal agency budgets across the board through 2021. Fiscal conservatives in the House want to keep sequester in place.

Defense groups launched a major lobbying effort in 2012 to avert the sequester, but their warnings of economic collapse did little to move the parties from their entrenched positions.

Industry associations and other Washington groups contend that the sequester, because of its abruptness, has caused undue disruption to the military, civilian agencies and government contractors.

“We fully recognize that the debt and deficit are pressing issues which need to be resolved,” the letter says. “Sequestration is also pressing and its elimination must be part of the solution. All cuts to date have come from the discretionary accounts including the core functions of national security, public safety and investments in research and development and infrastructure.  Sequestration has come to pass and is causing irreparable harm to both government and the private sector.”

Seven months since sequestration was triggered, the letter notes, “We are already seeing substantial negative national security and economic impacts,” including industry layoffs. “We urge you to find a compromise that will end sequestration, lift the debt ceiling and provide a path that will lead to regular appropriations bill for the remainder of the fiscal year,” the letter says. “Our national security and economy depend on the certainty and predictability that can only come from a long term solution to ensure our nation’s financial health.”

Topics: Government Policy

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