“They’ll do something else and then we have to recreate that capacity, and that cannot happen overnight,” she said.
Ayotte told reporters after her speech that she disagreed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who have suggested putting off budget discussions until after the election, or possibly next year.
“I think that they’re wrong on this,” Ayotte said, adding that a growing number of lawmakers appeared to be getting engaged on the issue. “We can’t wait until after the election.”
Ayotte called for working groups in both the House and Senate to find alternate ways to cut federal deficits, noting that Congress could postpone the cuts by one year by reaching agreement on around $109 billion in other deficit reductions.
One option would be to refrain from filling one out of every three federal jobs that came open, she said. She said she was also open to looking at closing some tax loopholes and other measures to boost revenues, but felt that spending also needed to be cut and entitlement programs needed to be reformed.
In Washington, conservative and liberal think tanks that seldom see eye to eye, including the Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institution, oppose the additional defense cuts, which would be applied indiscriminately across the board.
But some critics say defense companies are just looking for a way to justify continued military spending even though the war in Iraq is over and U.S. troops are moving out of Afghanistan.
“Simply put, defense contractors are using their own workers as pawns -- threatening them with massive layoffs -- to scare up political opposition to any attempt to rein in runaway spending at the Pentagon,” wrote William Hartung and Stephen Miles in a blog on the Huffington Post.
They said Lockheed generated nearly $4 billion in profit last year and $81 billion in orders on backlog, while Lockheed Chief Executive Bob Stevens got $25.8 million in compensation, more than all by two Wall Street CEOs.