The Aerospace Industries Association is optimistic that defense modernization will get priority under a Trump Administration, but AIA president David Melcher voiced concerns Tuesday that “deficit politics” will continue to hamper needed investment in military systems. Speaking at the AIA’s annual year-end review and forecast of industry trends, Melcher said he met with Trump in May, and that the candidate “listened carefully” to industry concerns and agreed with the need to beef up defense capabilities. But while AIA may have a partner in Trump, reversing the budget sequester, and “the damage it has caused to industry,” as well fixing trade issues that hamper foreign sales of military equipment won’t happen fast. “We have no illusions this will be easy,” Melcher said, anticipating “headwinds” from the 115th Congress. Melcher said AIA would like to see the Budget Control Act repealed and budgets for modernization increased, and wants Congress to reverse course on new rules governing independent research and development, which are “not a good idea.”
The association is also vexed by new overtime rules, which add costs to contracts and wants a full slate of appointments and further improvements at the export-import bank. The AIA would like the new Congress and administration to think, “not just ‘buy American,’ but ‘sell American,’” Melcher said, with an easing of restrictions on arms sales, especially if the US is “not going to be the world’s policeman” anymore, he said. Melcher also said the AIA would like to see a “21st century civil space strategy” from the new administration, removing restrictions that prevent sales of space equipment; a “self-inflicted wound.” The AIA also wants an easing of regulations that thwart efficiency and overseas sales. Top on the AIA’s list, though, is getting regular, on-time budgets enacted from the new Congress. “We deeply regret the prolonged budget uncertainty and unthinking austerity of recent years,” Melcher asserted.