A new study commissioned by the U.S. Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) concludes that defense contractors and their suppliers would lose 124,428 jobs in 2013 if a worst-case budget scenario unfolds in Congress. Based on AIA’s calculation of 620,000 total jobs, the industry would see 20% of its workforce vanish in a single year. That’s astounding.
A little poking around, however, turns up that Stephen Fuller, the respected George Mason University economist who prepared the study for AIA, was working off a different set of figures. AIA confirms that Fuller based his numbers on a calculation by Deloitte Consulting that the industry has about 1 million direct jobs. The difference: Deloitte counts jobs related to sea, land and government services, while AIA does not.
The headline from Fuller’s study is his calculation that more than 1 million jobs in total could be lost. He gets to that figure by adding in the impact of deep spending cuts on businesses that provide professional services and the loss of ancillary jobs in other industries that benefit from defense dollars. With the U.S. unemployment rate stuck above 9%, the threat of losing 1 million jobs is an effective tool for AIA’s lobbyists as they seek to influence a congressional “super committee” that is debating how to cut another $1.2 trillion from the federal budget deficit during the next 10 years.
But is 1 million an inflated figure? Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate staffer and veteran of the Government Accountability Office, questions whether Fuller based his findings on assumptions that were tailored by AIA. “When I was at GAO, we frequently received research questions from interested parties and a request to do a study using the parameters the requester required,” he wrote in a widely distributed Oct. 26 email. “We would typically answer the biased question(s) and then also say something like, "But you should have asked us the following with more valid parameters, and -- oh by the way -- here's the real answer."