By Dave Michaels
The defense industry is resisting any further cuts to its programs in an end-of-year deal over the fiscal cliff.
In 2011, Congress passed legislation, the Budget Control Act, that cut roughly $490 billion from future defense spending. Defense-industry CEOs and their trade group, the Aerospace Industries Association, have united around the message that further cuts through sequestration would be disastrous. (Going over the fiscal cliff would cut another $24 billion from defense programs in 2013.)
“Our dialogue with our customers has not been another $25 or $50 billion,” said Wes Bush, chief executive of Northrup Grumman Corp.
However, Bush and other CEOs who spoke today at a press conference in Washington also cracked open the door to a long-term budget compromise that would involve more defense savings. They say the changes would have to be spread out in the future and would have to be targeted at the right programs (by which they mean, not procurement). “Ultimately, if done in a pragmatic and managed way … we all know we can deal with tough challenges and we are willing to take tough challenges on,” Bush said.
The exec who went most off-script was David Langstaff, the CEO of TASC, an engineering and technology contractor based in Virginia. He said another $50 to $150 billion in defense cuts would be necessary, but through a vehicle other than the blunt instrument of the sequester. “Those are the numbers, rather than something as destructive as what sequestration would deliver,” he said.