Let's NOT Cut the Pentagon Budget
By Diane Randall on 07/06/2012 @ 03:00 PM
Not a headline you would expect from FCNL; yet that is what we hear and see everyday in the drumbeat that defense contractors and their lobbyists are marching to here in Washington. And it's a catchy beat--if you are an elected official and a large employer in your district is threatening to lay off workforce, how do you keep from marching in line to protect those defense expenditures?
Many members of Congress are very worried about their approval of last fall's Budget Control Act that set up a sequestration process in order to achieve a $1.2 trillion reduction in the U.S. federal deficit. The pain they are feeling now is ratcheted up by the defense contractors who declare that the sequestration, which would cut up to $1 trillion from the defense budget over a ten year period, is untenable. Even though the $1 trillion in defense cuts takes Pentagon spending only back to 2007 levels.
Today's Politico (Washington media source) reported that seven senators (McCain, Inhofe, Chambliss, Ayotte, Graham, Cornryn and Lieberman) wrote a letter to 15 defense contractors, stating that the White House has refused to "conduct any meaningful analysis" on how the automatic budget cuts would affect the industrial base. These senators asked the defense industry to five questions: How many contracts do you hold that could be terminated or restructured if sequestration takes effect? What impact would this have on your workers and suppliers? When do you plan to issue layoff notices? Is the threat of sequestration currently affecting your bottom line? And what is the impact of sequestration on your business model?
Recipients of the letter include: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, L-3 Communications, Northrup Grumman, Boeing, General Dynamics and United Technologies Corporation
As Politico points out, this letter invites all the defense contractors into the public political fray. So far, only Lockheed has threatened to send out mass layoff notices right before the Election Day. But if others do so, it "would ramp up the pressure on politicians to reach a deal to stave off the automatic cuts, but it could also alarm shareholders. Also, each company will want to be seen as better able to weather the storm than its competitors."
FCNL staff who have talked to congressional offices about the possibility of amendments to reduce expenditures on specific weapons systems have heard about the armor of resistance that confronts any efforts for cuts--literally the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines-- are called in, along with their lobbyists, to avoid elimination of weapons systems or even reductions.
Giving members of Congress some backing for making the difficult choices of cutting defense is precisely what they need. Elected officials need to know their constituents--the people who vote for them--want to see a reduction in Pentagon spending. And getting our members of Congress to provide leadership for moving the industrial base from reliance on a military economy to technologies that we need for the future is a reasonable expectation of our political leaders.
The fact is that the proposed cuts will not decimate all defense expenditures. And if defense expenditures aren't reduced, the domestic side of the budget will face greater reductions. Expect to see increased cuts in programs that serve the elderly, children, students, and people with disabilities and in federal aid that goes to cities and states.
Pressing the message that NOW is the time for Pentagon cuts to occur has been a drumbeat for FCNL and will continue to be a message we will ask you to carry to your elected officials over the next few months. Participating in the Quaker Public Policy Institute and Lobby Day on November 15-16 here in Washington will give you an opportunity to be part of a large contingent of the FCNL network of advocates. Join us now by talking to your members when they are in the district and join us in November in Washington to say "Let's DO CUT the Pentagon budget."