If the budget cuts go through as planned, more than 1 million jobs could be lost at U.S. weapons plants and in the surrounding communities, according to some estimates. Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin warned it might be forced to make 10 percent of its workforce redundant.
But the campaign to stop sequestration, some suspect, could simply be the start of a much larger battle.
DEFENSE FIRMS PUSH BACK
It’s now a mantra for top Pentagon officials and the wider defense sector that cuts beyond the $487 billion already planned would make nonsense of Washington’s entire national security strategy, which was unveiled only last February.
“Defense has already been cut through the muscle and we are now into the bone,” said Marion Blakey, chief executive of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), pointing to 50 “significant sized” projects the Pentagon says it has already canceled. “I wish we lived in a safer world, but we don’t.”
One of the three cardboard-mounted cartoons she often carries to meetings delivers a blunt message to politicians.
“Defense cuts equal job losses” reads one, a 1930s-style pen and ink image of a line of muscular defense workers marching directly into a polling booth. “Workers return the favor.”
Not everyone agrees. Opinion pollsters say defense often tops the list of areas where the public would like to see cuts, while fatigue over the last decade’s wars makes new overseas commitments hard to sell.
Some experts argue further efficiencies and cuts are more than possible. They suggest buying more flexible systems and using special forces, drones and new technology to replace more expensive traditional equipment.