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Aerospace brass to press DoD on budgets

America's defense aerospace titans have an appointment at the Pentagon next week to let the E-Ring leadership know how they feel about the prospect of major reductions in defense spending, Reuters reported Thursday. And how do they feel about it? Well, they're mildly perturbed -- or would it be more accurate to say they're fulminating with white-hot rage?

To wit:

"We certainly will want to be discussing the circumstances that we're in, in terms of the overall budget situation," Marion Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association, told the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington on Thursday. The Pentagon is trimming at least $350 billion from its previously projected spending through the next decade under a debt-ceiling dealsigned into law August 2. Additional defense-related cuts of up to $600 billon are to kick in if Congress fails by the end of the year to find at least $1.2 trillion more in deficit reduction over the same period.

Panetta will meet members of the industry group's 18-member executive committee, Blakey said. The committee is currently chaired by James Albaugh, chief executive of Boeing Co's commercial airplanes unit. Boeing is the Pentagon's No. 2 supplier by sales, behind Lockheed Martin Corp. The chief executives of Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, BAE Inc and General Dynamics Corp are also committee members.

The industry will also seek to discuss strategy to preserve the U.S. industrial base, Blakey said.

That's a lot of firepower if all those leaders show up, and they'll probably get a cordial reception from Panetta. He and other top leaders have stuck to their view that DoD has already done enough budget cutting and somebody else now has to take a turn. In fact, it's a good opportunity for Panetta to turn right around and say, hey guys, I'm on your side -- now if only you had some way of influencing Congress!

And here's something else that could come up in this discussion: President Obama's big jobs push, announced Thursday night, is supposed to include the relaxation of "regulations" that impede American businesses. Much of this is political, a way to try to outflank the Republican presidential candidates who complained about "regulations" in their debate on Wednesday. But there could be some practical effect, too, if the president wants to try to beat Republicans at their own game and creates an opportunity for the aerospace sector, or the defense sector in general, to get the relaxed export controls it wants. As we saw last month, the UAV sector especially wants the government to help it grow and export, so this could be a politically convenient opportunity for both sides.

Will they seize it?

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