US defense industry in late surge to stop spending cuts

Defence

It is urging individuals who may be hurt by job losses to write protest letters, and BAE's push is part of this plan.

"These latest gloom and doom messages from the Hill about sequestration are fueling our efforts to turn up the volume," Sheller said. He said the industry had generated 17,000 new letters to Congress and the White House since Monday.

AIA President Marion Blakey and a handful of top industry executives have also been meeting members of Congress, including the leaders of defense committees, to underscore the potential impact cuts would have on jobs.

Blakey pointed out this week that the 0.1 percent contraction of the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter was partly caused by government spending that has already been reduced, primarily in the defense sector. A fresh wave of cuts would "overwhelm our floundering economic boat," she said in a statement.

'BEST WE CAN HOPE FOR'

Defense lobbyists who have been sounding the alarm about sequestration say they fear they may not succeed. Some saw as particularly unsettling comments by Republican Representative Paul Ryan this week that he thought the automatic spending cuts "will probably happen".

"How can you maintain a firm line when the Republicans have said they'll accept defense cuts?" said one lobbyist who requested anonymity.

"About the best we can hope for now is that they'll allow generous reprogramming requests," he said. Reprogramming requests are the means by which the Defense Department seeks congressional approval to shift sums from one account to another to cover unexpected needs.

During recent earnings calls, defense executives said they are not yet including the cuts in their outlooks for 2013, leading some to believe that the sector is confident they will not happen.

But the omission is more about uncertainty, not confidence.

"We don't have specific information about how DOD (the Department of Defense) might implement sequestration," said Rob Doolitte, spokesman for General Dynamics Corp, which manufactures the Abrams main battle tank, the Striker combat vehicle and nuclear-powered submarines.

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