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Defense Industry Launches Campaign

Monday, December 1, 2008

A trade group for some of the biggest defense companies is going on the offensive, with a lobbying push and a $1.5 million ad campaign to promote the number of jobs it creates, in what defense analysts call a preemptive measure to protect its lucrative weapons programs under a new Obama administration.

The Aerospace Industries Association's ad, titled "Aerospace and Defense: The Strength to Lift America," says the industry supports more than 2 million middle-class jobs, has more than 30,000 suppliers in 50 states and is the country's leading manufacturing export industry, at $97 billion per year. Some major defense companies, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and SAIC, helped pay for the ads. Ads are set to run over the next two months in publications inside the Beltway, including The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, the National Journal and Politico.

Marion C. Blakey, president and chief executive of AIA, said the group launched the campaign to get the word out to Congress and the new administration that as they're looking to "invest taxpayer dollars, they don't fail to appreciate that we're an economic engine."

"There are many industries turning to Washington with expectations," she said. "We want it understood that we're not asking for any bailout."

Blakey added: "We want to make sure they understand we are a strong industry that can propel the economy forward and not see us as a bill payer for some of these other costs that are going to be incurred. We're simply saying, 'Take care not to damage a critical engine for the economy.' "

Blakey said that as the AIA's lobbyists meet with the new administration, the industry would encourage Obama to fund a $1 billion-a-year overhaul of the country's air transportation system.

Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant at the Lexington Institute, said the trade group is running the ad because the industry "fears there will be a decline in federal spending for military technology under President Obama, so it is sending a signal that any cuts will further harm an already weakened economy."

Thompson said: "With the erosion of U.S. manufacturing, aerospace exports -- including weapons -- have become one of the few bright spots in the U.S. trade balance. Aerospace is also one of the few sectors left where industrial unions still have a strong presence."

-- Dana Hedgpeth

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