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AIA has made its presence felt on Capitol Hill this year, as Congress continues to grapple with important spending and policy issues vital to the aerospace and defense industry. On February 21, at the invitation of House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee co-chair Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.), AIA’s Marion Blakey testified about the impacts of sequestration. Blakey warned the panel even prior to the beginning of sequestration, “Defense manufacturers have now been laying off workers and canceling future plans for many months now because of this uncertainty.” She added that the way sequestration is structured for the Defense Department, “the operating, training, and equipment accounts – and civilians supporting the DOD – must bear a heavier burden.” With respect to non-DOD sequestration impacts, Blakey told the panel, “AIA has a strong interest in a healthy FAA that allows U.S. companies to compete globally in the civil aircraft market; a robust NASA that pushes the boundaries of science and exploration; a well resourced NOAA that provides the tools we need to protect lives and property from severe storms, and a forward looking education policy that provides adequate support for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education that fuels the pipeline for our future manufacturing workforce.”
Cord Sterling, AIA’s Vice President for Legislative Affairs, testified on February 28 before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness regarding the impacts of sequestration on defense industrial base activities. In his testimony, Sterling addressed common misperceptions about the sequester. First, he noted that because the sequester was slated to kick in after agencies had already spent 40 percent or more of their Fiscal Year funding, the reality is that DOD “will have to cut its programs by at least a third more” than the commonly referenced amount of 7.2 percent. Second, he noted that contrary to common opinion, the sheer magnitude of the nationwide effects of sequestration will not be evident in the first months. “Our analyses all concluded that most private sector job losses would occur within 6-18 months of the sequester order as contracts expire,” Sterling said. And finally, Sterling noted that “while greater flexibility would undoubtedly aid the DOD in absorbing these huge reductions, it is not a panacea for providing an adequate budget… When you look more closely, flexibility without additional resources ends up savaging the very accounts that warfighters depend on for advanced equipment and long-term readiness.”
Despite the lack of action on sequestration, Congress did pass important budgetary measures in the first quarter. On March 20, the Senate passed its version of the continuing resolution (H.R. 933) funding the U.S. Government for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. The bill includes specific appropriations for Defense, Veterans, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Commerce, NASA and NOAA, while providing authority to continue spending roughly at last year’s levels for other federal agencies. President Obama signed the legislation shortly thereafter. Although the legislation did not eliminate sequestration, it did realign some funds. This avoided further complicating the resource-to-requirements imbalance of some agencies, including the Defense Department. The bill did not include the amendment offered by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVa.), to limit compensation of government contractors, which would have severely undermined the ability of the aerospace industry to compete for the most talented workforce.
AIA Source: cord.sterling[at]aia-aerospace.org