This Can’t Go On

The security situation in the world is getting worse, and the US needs to step up its investment in new defense hardware, Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO David Melcher said Tuesday. Speaking in Washington, D.C., at the AIA’s year-end review of the health of the industry, Melcher said the trend in recent years has been on “modernizing” rather than “recapitalizing,” but “we can’t do this forever.” There comes a point, he said, where “we can’t keep rebuilding the B-52.” Melcher said the presidential candidates have not “addressed national security yet,” and he said AIA will push them to do so. Budget deficits are “heading back to a trillion [dollars] a year” by some estimates, and a plan for defense is needed before interest on the national debt and other priorities crowd defense out, he asserted, acknowledging that the Air Force particularly faces a “bow wave” of many big-ticket programs all peaking in the mid-2020s. Melcher said he’s optimistic a workable deal can be done, however, noting that, against all odds—and years of lobbying—the Export-Import bank has recently been re-authorized and a bipartisan budget deal was reached again. Neither of those things seemed even remotely likely “just a few months ago.” (Read Melcher’s speech.)