Aerospace Group Sees Looming Budget Battle

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Defense industry advocates seem to see budget cuts coming and they're trying to get out of the way.

The Aerospace Industries Association on Tuesday called on policy makers to start thinking about defense spending -- and consider ways to make sure weapons purchases don't get pushed aside. Operating costs and personnel are getting more expensive, the big trade group said, and the next administration will also face a host of other budget pressures. But that won't stop the Pentagon's airplanes and helicopters from getting older, or ease the need to replace them, the group said.

"Our country's current path for military aerospace modernization is not viable," AIA's new defense modernization manifesto said. "As part of adequately funding national defense, DoD needs to increase annual procurement spending to a steady state range of $120 billion150 billion, in constant dollars, simply to modernize an aging, increasingly obsolete and potentially vulnerable force."

The trade group said Congress needs to keep passing emergency spending bills, so that war costs don't make modernization unaffordable. It also called for the next administration to give a little extra thought to the defense budget, so that weapons buying won't fall to the bottom of the priority heap as military support costs rise.

"By 2013, over a 25-year period, the operations and support element of the budget will have more than doubled faster than the growth in the defense budget itself. In contrast, investment will increase by slightly more than 50 percent, well below the growth path of the general budget.

These trends suggest an ongoing, permanent change in composition of the defense budget," the trade group said. "Continuing this trend beyond current projections will make it even more difficult for defense planners to adequately resource the investment spending upon which our military superiority and technological edge depends."

-- Rebecca Christie

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