Since 1998, and especially since 2001, the Pentagon gravy train has been roaring along like a runaway down a steep grade. Inflation-adjusted spending has been greater than it was during the peak of the Cold War. The so-called “peace dividend” has been swallowed by defense spending that is higher than that of the next 20 or so nations combined. As a consequence, however, of the budget deal cut last August, some $ 50 billion will be sequestered, that is, removed from the Pentagon’s budget in January. That will mean significant layoffs in the military-industrial complex, and because of lead time, those could come as soon as October. But the Pentagon has announced no plans thus far for where those cuts might occur. This has produced a kind of limbo.
But the military-industrialists are not sitting around waiting for the ax to fall:
The Aerospace Industries Association is leading the industry’s inside-outside game, blanketing Capitol Hill and congressional districts trying to make the case that lawmakers need to kill the defense spending cuts before catastrophic damage to the economy, jobs and the country’s national defense occur. [...]
AIA’s seven-figure campaign, dubbed “Second to None,” includes rallies in lawmakers’ districts, paying for studies on the economic impact of sequestration and pushing the issue through social media and catchy cartoons.
Defense contractors like Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon spent more than $ 9.6 million on lobbying during the first three months of 2011. AIA alone spent $ 1.4 million last year and more than $ 620,000 on lobbying during the first three months of 2012.
The lobbying effort is going beyond the usual nexus of allies in both parties, according to Politico’s Anna Palmer and Austin Wright. For instance, AIA has connected with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. IAM has worked diligently arguing against sequestration on Capitol Hill. In a joint mid-June op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, AIA CEO Marion Blakey and IAM President Tom Buffenbarger wrote:
According to DOD, sequestration will shut down virtually every major modernization program—from stealth fighters to intelligence satellites to ships the Navy has been waiting on for years. These cuts will leave our aerial and naval fleet smaller and older than any we’ve fielded since World War II, and our military dependent on aircraft designed and in some cases built three, four, even five decades ago. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the cuts would generate “unacceptable risk” to our combat troops; his deputy called it “assisted suicide” for our military.
Equally troubling, according to a study by noted economist Stephen Fuller of George Mason University, sequestration would destroy more than 350,000 aerospace jobs, with an additional loss of 654,000 jobs that our industry supports in communities and towns across the nation. Cuts to NASA and FAA budgets would further accelerate this industrial decline.
National security and jobs make for a potent lobbying combination anytime, but never more so than in an election year. Even before Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation of the military-industrial complex, that powerful force has driven policy and budget. The truth is that the Pentagon budget needs more than a modest trim. The question is how to go about it in a smart, gradual but steady way. The abrupt impact of sequestration is certainly not that.
But the answer of the deficit peacocks on Capitol Hill, as exemplified by the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012 that the House passed in May, is to slash non-defense spending. Their desire to do that was exactly what led to the deal last August because most Democrats weren’t willing to cut as deeply into domestic programs as Republicans were. It’s hard to imagine any realistic scenario for resolving this situation before November. Afterward, who knows. One thing’s for certain, Medicaid and funding for regulatory oversight and a host of other such programs have no lobbyists as powerful as the miltiary-industrialists on their side.
Source: Daily Kos