Friday, January 16, 2009

Weapons Makers Using Jobs Pitch To Lobby for Their Projects

Jan. 16, 2009 – 1:51 p.m.

When lobbyists for Lockheed Martin Corp. visited congressional offices in recent weeks to brief members or staff on the merits of their F-22 fighter, the top item on their agenda had nothing to do with the plane’s military attributes.

For the first time, “Economy/Jobs” topped the list of F-22 benefits. “F-22 Economic Impact is Significant,” said one briefing slide in the “F-22 Advocacy Briefing.” It cited the 95,000 jobs created by the program in 44 states and its more than $12 billion annual impact on the economy. Superimposed on that data was a faux newspaper clipping about the 159,000 jobs the U.S. economy had lost in September. The plane’s military benefits were now a secondary part of the case and jobs the primary focus — instead of the other way around.

The adjusted lobbying pitch for the F-22, known as the Raptor, could be a sign of things to come. The industry’s leading trade association and its allies in think tanks are highlighting the economic benefits of initiatives like the F-22. Other potentially at-risk defense programs are beginning to echo the theme, and still others soon will, experts say. And there are early signs that the jobs argument may be working with President-elect Barack Obama ’s new team and with Congress.

“The Obama administration understands that any major cuts to weapons spending would be a negative for the economy,” said Loren Thompson, a national-security analyst with the Lexington Institute who has consulted for defense contractors. “I think there are some programs, like the F-22 fighter, that might get a measure of protection because of the economic benefits they provide.”

On Jan. 16, 46 senators signed a letter to Obama, urging continuation of the F-22, citing the economic importance of the program and warning of layoffs.

“Over 25,000 Americans work for the 1,000+ suppliers in 44 states that manufacture the F-22,” the letter reads. “Moreover, it is estimated that another 70,000 additional Americans indirectly owe their jobs to this program. As we face one of the most trying economic times in recent history it is critical to preserve existing high-paying, specialized jobs that are critical to our nation’s defense.”

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