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Defense industry plays the jobs card


Standing up and trying to explain how sequestration and the resulting defense cuts are a bad thing because the Air Force can't buy planes and the Army will lose soldiers is going right over the public's head. Three out of four Americans want to see the Pentagon take a healthy cut in these fiscally austere times, according to a survey done by the Program for Public Consultation, the Center for Public Integrity and the Stimson Center.

Instead, the defense industrial base hopes they can grab Americans' fleeting attention spans with a report Tuesday morning that states sequestration will force defense companies to fire more than 1 million Americans. At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Aerospace Industries Association will release a study done by a George Mason professor that states that sequestration will almost certainly cost America 1.09 million jobs over the next year and put another 600,000 federal jobs at risk.

AIA President Marion Blakey will stand up with U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte,R-N.H., and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and explain how the U.S. can ill afford to lose a million jobs when unemployment continues to sit above 8 percent. Of course, playing the jobs card is nothing new for the defense industrial base. Defense industrial execs such as Lockheed Martin's Bob Stevens have already stood on their soap boxes and warned Congress that they will have to send slips in the mail warning their employees about massive layoffs four days before the national election.

Defense companies are very publicly declaring the threat of massive layoffs and then more quietly talking about their strategies to keep top talent in their work force and not running off to the Google's of the world. Defense News spoke to a host of top execs at the Farnborough Airshow about the threats of sequestration and how they plan to keep their work forces intact.

What is immediately striking is Lockheed Martin's practice of video taping employees on the assembly line to protect the company from the massive layoffs they saw in the '90s. Production came to a halt in some cases because they lost too many experienced workers who knew how to do the nuanced jobs found in production, Defense News writes.

The piece explains how defense industry executives don't want to give their employees a reason to polish off their resumes and seek employment outside the military realm. They understand that once you get that ball rolling it's hard to stop the momentum. Not to mention the fear it puts in potential future employees at a time when the defense industrial work force needs to get younger.

Expect more studies and more press conferences to talk jobs instead of bullets and fighter jets to sell Americans on the threat of sequestration. This isn't the '80s in the heat of the Cold War with the Soviet Union lurking. Most Americans want the U.S. out of Afghanistan. They want to hear about getting more Americans back to work and fixing the economy.

The question then becomes whether its healthy to keep building up a military just too keep people employed. When did the Pentagon become a jobs program?

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