They said the indiscriminate nature of the cuts would undermine the U.S. manufacturing sector and choke off critical investments in future technologies.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, speaking at the National Defense University, said the cuts required under “sequestration” would be “chaotic, wasteful and damaging to every function of government and should not take place.”
David Langstaff, chief executive of engineering services provider TASC Inc, urged lawmakers to work out a compromise.
“We are talking a good game, but are still unwilling to park short-term self-interest,” Langstaff said. “Every trade group, special interest and corporate lobbyist is up on Capitol Hill clamoring that Congress solve the problem, avoid the fiscal cliff and not default to sequestration ... but, don’t touch my budgets! We can’t have it both ways.”
Langstaff said the “heavy lifting” would need to come from other areas, but that additional cuts of $50 billion to $150 billion in defense spending were likely.
Wes Bush, chief executive of Northrop Grumman Corp, said failure to act could hurt the United States’ standing in the global economy, while a speedy resolution would stimulate new global investment and growth.
“The world is watching ... to see can the United States can get its act together,” he said. “Or do we have to have this political theater to cause us to actually figure out how we’re going to take action.”
David Hess, president of jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney, said his parent company, United Technologies Corp, believed comprehensive tax reform, including personal income tax rates, needed to be part of any fiscal compromise.
Dawne Hickton, chief executive of RTI International Metals Inc, said she would support an increase in the personal income tax rate for the wealthiest Americans if it would help avoid across-the-board cuts, which she said would be particularly hard on small and medium-sized businesses.
RTI, which makes titanium for fighter jets and other weapons systems, has already diversified into energy and medical devices, Hickton said. Military sales now account for 20 percent of revenues versus 40 percent three years ago, she said.