Countdown to Disaster

When it comes to the Fiscal Cliff, says one aerospace executive, “Not only are we running out of time, we’re running out of metaphors.”

Photo courtesy of AIA

NASA has its countdown clock. The Aerospace Industries Association has one, too. It ticks down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the dreaded “fiscal cliff” arrives on January 1, 2013.

Forgoing the usual big-screen charts and graphics at the group’s 48th annual year-end luncheon on Wednesday, AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey took the stage with the clock as her sole prop.

“Not only are we running out of time, we’re running out of metaphors” for the automatic spending cut known as sequestration, she told about 300 members of the media and industry at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C.  “It’s been called everything from a self-inflicted wound to a Satan sandwich.” Next to her, the clock—labeled “Countdown to Over 2 Million American Jobs Lost”—ticked away. In smaller type was printed: “Stop the clock. Write your elected officials today.”

She predicted significant job losses to the aerospace industry if $487 billion is slashed from the Defense Department over the next decade, as Congress has directed, and an additional $500 billion in defense spending is cut due to sequestration.

Despite the looming threat, the numbers for 2012, she said, “still look promising,” with aerospace and defense industry sales up 3.4 percent, from $211 billion last year to $218 billion, aided by sales of civil aircraft. Industry exports also were up, from $85 billion in 2011 to an estimated $95 billion this year. And the number of industry jobs rose over the same period from 625,000 to 629,000.

Still, “we have a lot of work to do” to ensure that the industry remains healthy. “But first, we must avoid the fiscal cliff. More and more, we’re like Thelma and Louise, careening into the void.”

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