13 defense executives bemoan uncertainty of cuts

Tuesday - 9/11/2012, 9:02am EDT

Thirteen defense executives say that the threat of automatic, across-the-board cuts to military spending is creating uncertainty that's already affected their industry.

"[T]he mere specter of sequestration already is having an adverse effect on investment and employment within the defense industrial base due to the additional uncertainty it represents for companies … that are working to weather a fragile economy while absorbing almost $500 billion in defense spending cuts directed by last summer's Budget Control Act of 2011," wrote Jim McNerney, chairman, president and CEO of The Boeing Company.

Seven senators released copies of the executives' letters on Monday. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Saxby Cambliss (R-Ga.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) are trying to ratchet up the political pressure to force Congress and President Barack Obama to produce a deficit-cutting plan to avert the cuts before they kick in Jan. 2.

However, no action is expected until after the election.

The executives from such companies as Lockheed Martin Corp., Raytheon Co., Boeing Co., and Northrop Grumman Corp., said the looming cuts had not affected current contracts. But they warned of an impact on the industry and its workforce if the indiscriminate reductions go into effect.

"The leaders of America's defense industry share our deep concern that the across-the-board defense budget cuts slated to occur in less than four months will devastate the readiness of our armed forces to meet current and future threats to our nation's security, will eliminate high-paying jobs in the industry, and will have a negative and long-lasting impact on the defense industrial base," wrote McCain in a statement.

He quoted estimates by Dr. Steven Fuller of George Mason University that 1.1 million defense-industry jobs would be lost if sequestration kicked in on Jan. 2.

"We are very concerned that … [sequestration] would have serious negative consequences for the security of our country, the defense industrial base, and the customers, employees, suppliers, investors, and communities that rely on the companies in the defense industrial base," wrote Wes Bush, chairman, CEO and president of Northrop Grumman.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.