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Feb. 12, 2013—
Discretionary spending accounts are taking the full brunt of the economic damage that a sequester would bring, but they're the wrong part of the budget to cut, said a coalition of more than 3,500 organizations from across industry, academia, and the public sector on Monday.

Making their case to Congress and the White House, the coalition members—comprising the Aerospace Industries Association, Non-Defense Discretionary United, and the Task Force on Innovation in America—said during a press briefing in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 11 that the federal spending on which they rely provides the most basic functions that America counts on for its way of life, from defense to air traffic control to college loans.

Yet cutting discretionary spending, at just eight percent of GDP, can't fix the deficit, they said.

Hunter Rawlings of the Association of American Universities said "discretionary spending is not growing and is not the problem. Cutting investment in the future is not the way to solve the problem."

AIA Chairman and Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush said, "We already are on track to the lowest discretionary spending relative to GDP in 50 years. And that's without sequestration."

The nation can't prosper, innovate, and lead without proper public health, public safety, research and development, education, and national security, said Bush.

At the event, AIA referenced the report that it sponsored last year that found that more than 2.14 million defense jobs would disappear with a sequester—with small business absorbing nearly half of those job losses—and national unemployment would rise by 1.5 percent.

Peter McPherson, head of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, said 200,000 research jobs would end with sequester, wounding American competitiveness.

The assembled reps agreed that a "balanced" approach to solving the fiscal crisis is needed, and that it must include new revenues and entitlements reform as well as spending cuts.

Marion Blakey, AIA president and CEO, said it's always been acknowledged by her organization that defense spending "must be part of the conversation," but that the arbitrary spending cuts would be too grievous and would hurt national security.

(See also AIA release.)