As Defense Industry Lobbies Against Cuts, Rhetoric Overshoots Reality

Huffington Post
August 18, 2011

Facing the possibility of actual defense spending cuts for the first time since the end of the Cold War, the nation’s biggest defense contractors have put aside their traditional hyper-competitiveness and joined forces in a messaging and advocacy blitz under the slogan “Second to None.”

The campaign’s website,, warns that “American leadership in aerospace and defense is being threatened by forces in Congress and the administration.”

Budget cuts proposed by “extreme voices”, it says, would “devastate our military, weaken our economy, and force us to cede global leadership in a time of increasing threats.”

But even the most drastic defense budget cuts being considered wouldn’t come anywhere close to dislodging America from its top spot in global defense spending.

The “Second to None” campaign is being led by the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group that normally stands idly by while its members fight over such things as who gets to build fighter-jet engines.

When AIA Vice President Fred Downey spoke to The Huffington Post about the dangers of second place, it was primarily in the context of the threat foreign competitors pose to the U.S. aerospace industry. But he didn’t back away from the broader warnings on his website about the country losing its overall defense dominance. “It could be both,” he said.

And Michael Herson, president of American Defense International (ADI), a lobby shop that represents several major defense contractors, insisted in an interview that the danger of being second in defense is real.

“Today or tomorrow, no, but the day after, maybe,” Herson said. “It’s just something that we need to be aware of and mindful of. And Americans need to think about whether they want to be number one, whether they want to be second best?”

The trigger “would be devastating,” he said. “At that point, you’re going to have to say, ‘Okay, in addition to canceling major weapons systems, what are we willing not to do anymore?’ ” And that, he said, would mean “we’re going to give up capability — and those gaps are going to be filled by other countries, most likely China.”

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