Hours before a super committee announced it failed to deliver a bipartisan agreement to avoid forced cuts to federal defense spending, U.S. Rep. Todd Platts joined hundreds of BAE Systems employees and executives to rally for a solution that doesn't involve defense decreases.
The event at the West Manchester Township plant was organized by Second to None, a campaign funded by the Aerospace Industries Association to oppose the cuts.
Wednesday was the deadline by which a congressional super committee was expected to deliver at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions. The 12-person committee said Monday that it failed.
Because of that failure, the Pentagon is supposed to make $500 billion in automatic, across-the-board defense budget cuts over 10 years.
BAE, a military contractor, and its customers have already been paring operations and putting efficiencies in place to prepare for $480 billion in previously announced defense funding cuts, said Bob Murphy, BAE's executive vice president for product sectors. Murphy was a speaker at the event.
Jeopardizing jobs: He said deeper cuts would not only weaken the United States' security, but it would jeopardize jobs at a time when the economy can't absorb it.
Murphy said it isn't clear whether or how many positions in York could be lost if the cuts are made. Much of those decisions would hinge on how much BAE's customers trim.
The company employs about 1,300 people at the York facility, making it one of the county's largest employers.
Murphy urged workers to protect their jobs and their national security by telling legislators to avoid the cuts.
"We cannot afford to stand by, with our hands in our pockets, and watch a political game of chicken," he said. "This is not a game. The defense of our nation, the lives of our troops, and the economies of communities like York hang in the balance."
BAE builds and refurbishes military vehicles such as the MA88 Hercules that toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.
Platts disappointed: Platts, echoing earlier statements by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, said the supercommittee's failure could risk national security and reduce the military to, in some cases, levels it hasn't seen in decades.
Though that view has plenty of adherents, there also are plenty of naysayers who call the Defense Department's predictions a scare tactic by bureaucrats desperate to protect their turf.
"This is palpable nonsense ... the idea that somehow or another this is going to be Armageddon," Lawrence Korb, a former assistant defense secretary who is a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, told the Associated Press last week.
But Platts said the failure could also have grave economic consequences because the loss of a facility such as BAE in York would not be as easy as a "flip of a switch to start back up."
He said deficit reduction fixes should come from so-called entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security - not taking them away, but fixing them "in a responsible way."
Platts said the failure of the joint committee - which at the time was still hypothetical - is more than a failure of the 12 men and women tasked with finding the deficit reduction solutions, but "a failure of the entire House, the entire Senate, and the president of the United States."
He said bipartisanship is needed to reach a solution to the federal deficit and the super committee breakdown should be "a stark wakeup call for all of us in the House, the Senate, and the White House. And we need to do much better. We tried this path, and we failed."
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