Reset the Benchmark

The Aerospace Industries Association would like to see a new benchmark level of spending on military hardware, AIA president Marion Blakey said Wednesday. Addressing aviation and defense writers in Washington, D.C., Blakey said personnel costs now eat up such a large percentage of defense budgets that the old goal of spending four percent of GDP on the military is no longer meaningful in terms of industry health. The rule of thumb, she said, “should be 35 percent of defense spending” on procurement and research, development, test, and evaluation, which would be “a better indicator” of how well the Defense Department is addressing modernization. Blakey said the AIA is “concerned” that the need to reset forces returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with replacement equipment will cut into funding for development of new systems and potentially put US forces at a technological disadvantage in the future. She said the aerospace industry is holding its own as the chief US exporter of goods and services, but acknowledges there “no doubt” will be “tough sledding ahead” with defense budgets in the next few years.