Aerospace industry exec urges Congress to avoid ‘arbitrary’ cuts

Defense industry contributes to nearly $20B in Dayton-area economic muscle

National and Ohio leaders in aerospace and defense are asking leaders of Congress to avoid automatic or arbitrary cuts in defense spending, a message that hits home in the Dayton region, where Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is located.

“While we commend members of Congress for the desire to act as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, cutting spending for our national defense and other key agencies like NASA and the FAA does just the opposite,” Aerospace Industries Association Chief Executive Eric Fanning said in a recent letter to leaders of the House and Senate.

The issue matters to Dayton and the state. According to JobsOhio and the Dayton Development Coalition, the region’s military and federal installations represent $19.4 billion in total economic activity in and around Dayton.

Statewide, Ohio’s military and federal installations generate $40 billion in economic impact, creating 380,000 jobs, while accounting for 6% of Ohio’s economy.

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Wright-Patterson itself is the state’s largest employer in one location, where more than 30,000 military and civilian employees are located. Air Force Materiel Command, headquartered at Wright-Patterson, employs about a third of all Air Force civilian employees.

“Congress must continue bipartisan support for strong investments in the (Department of Defense), which received overwhelming bipartisan bicameral support as recently as December and consistently over the last few years,” Fanning wrote. “Likewise, Americans depend on the FAA to maintain and improve the highest levels of aviation safety, and for NASA to help maintain our global lead in space research and exploration.”

“Aerospace and defense are strategic industries, not just to Ohio, but to our nation,” said retired Air Force Col. Joseph Zeis, a senior advisor to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on those market sectors. “Stability and long-term investment are vital to Ohio and to our nation’s economic, commercial and military security.”

Wright-Patterson is an internationally-recognized aerospace research, acquisition, and intelligence hub, and stable program budgets are crucial to development of people and technologies, Zeis added.

“Experience, expertise and rapid technology maturation are crucial assets,” he said. “If you lose them, you may not be able to reconstitute these vital capabilities quickly, if at all.”

“Arbitrary cuts of the defense budget will reduce national security and have ripple effects here in the Dayton region,” said Jeff Hoagland, president and chief executive of the Dayton Development Coalition. “Of course, our leaders must be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, but we absolutely can’t afford to ignore the potential military threats to our nation. Automatic spending cuts create uncertainty and can even cost money when activities have to be shut down and later restarted. This is particularly true for acquisition and science programs that are managed at Wright-Patterson.”

Fanning also urged Congress to avoid a debt ceiling debate and end reliance on continuing resolutions and government shutdowns as a means of governing.

In order to avoid defaulting on spending obligations, the U.S. Treasury Department last week said it had embarked on a series of “extraordinary” fiscal measures.

That sets up a potential showdown between leaders of the House of Representatives, who have said they will not approve new debt ceiling limits without reductions in spending, and President Biden, who has said he will not link conditions to the question of the debt ceiling.

Defense leaders were long unhappy with the automatic budget sequestration deal enacted under the Budget Control Act of 2011. Sequestration, or automatic caps on spending, led to the specter of furloughs at Wright-Patterson about a decade ago.

Some 8,700 civil service employees were furloughed in October 2013, the last time a major shutdown hit the Dayton region. There were also some short-lived furloughs five years later.

While the U.S. government has never defaulted on its debt, its debt ceiling has been raised 22 times since 1997, according to the Government Accountability Office.

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