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AIA calls for 20%-50% boost in US defence procurement spending

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) has warned that defence-readiness levels could decline dramatically in the next decade without a 20-50% overall increase in annual procurement spending.

The AIA's published warning comes in the first of two reports on defence modernisation, aimed at educating the candidates running in the US presidential elections.

AIA officials plan to meet with the defence policy advisors for all three active candidates - Senators John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama - by the end of May.

The industry lobbying group is calling for overall procurement spending to increase from about $100 billion today to a steady state of between $120 billion and $150 billion during the next decade.

The group also recommends establishing a floor for defence spending equivalent to 4% of US gross domestic product, compared with about 3.7% today.

Such increases would come on top of a steady rise in US defence procurement spending since 1997, excluding billions in extra funds provided by a series of wartime supplemental funds approved by the US Congress.

Boosting investment in new weapon systems is critical, as "tens of billions of dollars" are expected to migrate into operations and maintenance accounts to pay for the cost of fighting the Pentagon's so-called global war on terror.

Asked whether the AIA should also commit to a goal of keeping the industry's costs for new weapons systems from rising, AIA president Marion Blakey replied that the industry needs long-term funding stability to execute programmes more efficiently.

At the same time, both US Navy and US Air Force leaders are warning that a "fighter gap" will emerge in both services after around 2016, as hundreds of early-model Lockheed Martin F-16s and Boeing F-15s are due for retirement.

The USAF still officially plans to replace the F-16s with 1,763 new Lockheed F-35 Lightning IIs, but currently only has enough funding to buy the new fighters at a rate of about 40 aircraft per year.

AIA plans to publish a follow-up report in the third quarter this year that identifies specific gaps in combat and support aircraft and fleets.

The industry needs long-term funding stability in order to execute programmes more efficiently.

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