An anxious U.S. defense industry has launched a new push to galvanize lawmakers who are doing little to stop the massive federal spending cuts due to kick in on March 1.
Defense contractors started a fresh surge of letter-writing campaigns and meetings with U.S. officials to plead their case about why the billions of dollars in cuts known as sequestration would harm not only the defense sector but the larger economy.
The cuts are already law, but when Congress put them there last year, lawmakers never intended for them to happen.
The thinking was that they would be so abhorrent that Democrats and Republicans would come up with an alternative budget-cutting plan.
But no plan has emerged, and lately some Republicans have been saying they are willing to let sequestration take effect. If Congress doesn't act by March 1, some $85 billion in spending will be cut, about half of it from domestic spending and half from defense, this year.
"It's time that our elected officials focus and disarm the so-called doomsday device they set in motion," Linda Hudson, chief executive of British BAE Systems' U.S unit, wrote in a blog posted on Thursday to employees of the company.
"Sequestration must be stopped, and you can help," she declared, urging employees to go online to a website where they could post a letter to their lawmakers.
BAE Systems PLC is a subcontractors on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor, while Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems are principal partners.
Last week, the Aerospace Industries Association, the industry's chief trade group, hosted a conference call with 200 executives from about 150 defense companies to map out plans for a final stand against the cuts, spokesman Chip Sheller said.
The group has been warning against sequestration for months but now is using direct marketing on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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