- Advocacy & Policy
- Research Center
By Marion C. Blakey
AIA President and Chief Executive Officer
The sputtering U.S. economy faces many threats, and Americans following the news are used to the daily litany of concerns about the European debt crisis, stagnant jobs growth and continuing weakness in the housing sector. Now, thanks in large measure to AIA’s Second to None campaign, the message that sequestration poses a clear and present danger to our economy is becoming a major part of the national conversation.
On July 17, AIA released a study by George Mason University economist Stephen Fuller detailing that sequestration cuts to defense and non-defense agencies would put at risk next year 2.14 million jobs, contribute to a 1.5 percent unemployment increase and push the economy toward recession.
Featured in an Associated Press article distributed across the country and in hundreds of regional and television news reports, the report certainly got people’s attention. AIA’s web site, Facebook Page and Twitter Feed were a force multiplier. Shortly after the release, nearly 27,000 people used the Second to None campaign website to send letters to members of Congress about the issue. In another sign sequestration is becoming a hot issue, a Google Trends analysis shows that during a two week stretch in July, the word “sequestration” was googled by Americans more than three times as much as they did on average in the past year.
The increase in attention to this pressing issue was advanced by several hundred local aerospace and defense company workers at a “Stop Sequestration Now” rally in Northern Virginia July 30. The rally featured remarks by Virginia’s Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, Democratic Congressmen Gerald Connolly, Jim Moran and Bobby Scott and Republican Congressman Frank Wolf. Leading off the bipartisan event, Governor McDonnell cited AIA’s report on the economic impact of sequestration to Virginia, including the possible loss of more than 207,000 defense and non-defense jobs.
Most recently, with the support of former Secretary of Commerce and Transportation Norman Mineta, AIA released a new study conducted by Econsult Corporation about the impact of sequestration on FAA operations and the NextGen air transportation system. This includes up to 132,000 jobs lost in 2013 and the loss of $80 billion in GDP growth by 2035 if NextGen implementation is delayed. The report, released August 13, has already attracted significant media attention, and is raising awareness in the broader aviation community about what’s at stake.
While it is most encouraging that so many voices are being raised to call for a repeal of sequestration, the fact remains that Congress and the White House have not come together to hammer out a plan to get the job done. Everyone seems to get the point that sequestration is a looming disaster, but the increasing rhetoric has not yet resulted in a move by Congress to reverse the situation.
We are therefore now living in a fog of uncertainty. AIA’s leadership has met with Jeffrey Zients, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget to alert the administration that our member companies need clarification and policy guidance on a number of issues. These include the scope of funding subject to sequestration; contract impacts, including possible program terminations; differing government agency approaches to sequestration planning/preparation (e.g. slow down vs. speed up program spending); and company requirements to notify workers of the potential for layoffs in advance of January 2, as required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act).
On the latter subject, recent guidance provided by the Labor Department that WARN Act notices are not required under sequestration resulted in more questions than answers. This is because a prior Labor Department fact sheet stated that since the department “has no administrative or enforcement responsibility under WARN, [we] cannot provide specific advice or guidance with respect to individual situations.” In addition, Thomas Buffenbarger, President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers recently stated, “If a company doesn’t issue a WARN notice and we have this event occur, the fiscal cliff, then I’m going to represent our members taking our employers on for failing to follow the law. Now do I think that’s right? Probably not. The employers are as confused as we are about the whole situation right now.”
There is indeed a fog of uncertainty and concern surrounding all aspects of sequestration. That is why we can’t afford to let up on our Second to None campaign. We’re now urging our member companies to encourage their employees and suppliers to meet with their members of Congress or their staffs about sequestration during the remaining weeks of the congressional recess. We believe these meetings will help build momentum for our big push in Washington during National Aerospace Week, September 16-22. National Aerospace Week will be highlighted with a March to the Hill by hundreds of aerospace and defense workers on Wednesday, September 19, followed by meetings in the offices of individual members of Congress. With activities like these and the continued support of our member companies and their employees, we can make a big difference in this vital national debate.