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Defense Industry Braces for Sequester While Publicly Urging Alternatives to Cuts

“Until [sequestration] is permanently eliminated, there will be an overhang on our industry that stifles investment in plants, equipment, people, and future research and development essential to the future health of our industry.”

Still, the spokesman said the company’s lobbying strategy would not change.

Some lobbyists say it’s hard to top members of Congress and the Obama administration, who have repeatedly voiced concerns about the effects of the cuts.

“The most effective communicators about the issue have been [outgoing Defense] Secretary [Leon E.] Panetta and [Defense Secretary nominee Chuck] Hagel in his testimony,” said Rob Doolittle, a spokesman for General Dynamics. “It’s been hard to add to what they’ve said about the potential impact of sequestration on the Defense Department.”

General Dynamics spent $11.4 million lobbying in 2011 — more than in any single year since 1998, according to the Center for Responsive Politics — but its expenditures dropped to slightly less than $11 million last year, as it terminated contracts with five different outside firms.

Doolittle said those moves were not related to the sequester but rather were “a result of our regular review of requirements for outside lobbying support.”

While K Street shops may not be specifically helping companies avert the sequester, the issue permeates work on every topic, said Don Fleming, a lobbyist at Flagship Government Relations, whose clients include defense firm Embraer Aircraft Holding Inc. and included General Dynamics until early this year.

“The sequester adds an aura of unpredictability to every project,” he said.

Dorothy Coleman, vice president of tax and domestic economic policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, said her organization, which last year released grim reports of the sequester’s economic consequences, continues to schedule meetings on Capitol Hill.

“Our position has remained the same; we need to avoid sequestration and letting it happen is going to cost jobs,” she said.

Some reports have said the job losses could amount to 2 million and could potentially set the economy on the brink of recession.

The AIA has embarked on a new letter writing campaign, taking a cue from the playbook of its recently installed chairman, Wes Bush, the CEO of Northrop Grumman Corp., who had already been urging his network of suppliers and others to do the same.

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