A Comedown for America's Defense Lobby

September 19, 2012

To grasp how much the budget wars have altered the natural order of things in Washington, consider this: One of the most powerful lobbies in town, the defense industry, is feeling a bit powerless.

It is trying to head off automatic across-the-board cuts in the Pentagon budget of $54 billion next year alone, produced by a 2011 bipartisan budget deal. But it has made little apparent progress in blocking or tempering the so-called "sequestration" of funds set for January.

With traditional lobbying efforts hampered by congressional gridlock, the industry has added Facebook and Twitter to its usual arsenal.

And like activists of the left and right, the industry is engaging in direct action, holding protest rallies in the home districts of members of Congress and symbolic marches on Washington.

The latest of these efforts is this week, with the Aerospace Industries Association orchestrating a "march to Capitol Hill" by small and medium-sized businesses, which will be hard hit by the looming defense cuts.

AIA President Marion Blakey urged hundreds of military and industry officials during the annual Air Force Association conference on Tuesday to join in the group's "Second to None" campaign, telling them, "This is no time to stand on the sidelines."

Things could change after the November 6 election: Some members are discussing wiping out across-the-board cuts in favor of an additional $200 billion to $300 billion in targeted cuts to defense.

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