Playing Politics with National Security is a Transatlantic Mistake

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Statement by Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Marion C. Blakey on the need for a strong national defense budget.

Statement by Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Marion C. Blakey

Arlington, Va. — These past few days we’ve observed a particularly high level of concern from both Secretary of Defense Hagel and former Secretary Panetta about the magnitude of current global threats. In addition to the escalating Russian aggression in the Ukraine, still with us is the conflict in Syria, and challenges from North Korea, Iran, Al Qaeda and others. What has largely fallen off the radar of our news, and to a large degree the attention of the American Congress, is the fact that the draconian budget caps still threaten our national security. The Defense Department warns that funding under the budget caps in FY 16 and beyond is well below what is minimally required to meet our national security needs.

Noting this year’s mid-term elections, former Secretary Panetta said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, “our national leaders cannot just give up until the next election.” “Events in a dangerous world will not wait for the next election.” Echoing his predecessor’s concern, today Secretary Hagel addressed the ill-conceived perception that the “age of aggression in Europe” is over, stating that “Russia’s actions in Ukraine shatter that myth.” Secretary Hagel went on to call on NATO members in Europe to “step up” and begin shouldering a greater share of the cost of our alliance. Clearly, playing political games with national security budgets is a transatlantic flaw shared by the U.S. government and our NATO allies.

And a key voice of European industry also weighed in this week. Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus addressed the Atlantic Council and directed his concern with investment in NATO to his own European leaders. Enders said “perhaps the events in Ukraine are more effective in halting the downward trend” in defense spending.

America and our allies must not let history repeat itself. As Secretary Panetta said this week, “after every major conflict in recent history, deep defense cuts hollowed out the military.” Once again, our industry calls on Congress and the Administration to break with this dangerous tradition. Events worldwide demand action now. We must find a solution to the $115 billion in defense cuts slated to begin in the coming years, now. The cuts are sending a message of weakness to aggressors. Mr. Putin, Mr. Kim and Mr. al-Assad are highly unlikely to stand down while we conduct our mid-term elections.

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