Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) president and CEO Marion Blakey said she jumped out of her chair this week when she heard President Obama say, during the final televised debate between U.S. presidential candidates, that sequestration “will not happen.” She said that the AIA is calling on the Obama Administration and Congress to start negotiations immediately to reverse broad defense spending cuts.
“It’s good to see basic agreement between the candidates on the need to find an alternative to sequestration budget cuts that will compromise U.S. national security and put millions of Americans out of work beginning in just 71 days,” she said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “We need to find a solution immediately.”
Last week, Blakey and Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, sent a letter to Bob Schieffer, moderator of Monday’s final presidential debate, urging that a discussion of sequestration budget cuts be included in the night’s topics. They pointed out that sequestration refers to $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board budget cuts beginning on January 2, only 71 days after the last of the three presidential debates.
The AIA acknowledged that Obama’s remark that sequestration cuts will not go into effect surprised many in Washington. Defense industry officials, including Blakey, responded cautiously, noting that Congress still needs to address sequestration in a lame-duck session.
“As far as the health of the economy is concerned, [it’s good that he is] putting the power of his office behind overturning a law that should never have been put in place,” said Blakey. “And let’s remember that it was both the administration and the Congress who signed off on this, but administration leadership is critical.”
While on the conference call, Blakey warned, “With a crowded, short lame-duck session, it simply is not acceptable for us to be saying we’re going to push this away—say it must not happen—but not go ahead and deal with it now. If the conviction is there that it will not happen, then we’ve got to have the specifics…ready to go when we come back [after the election].”