LI aersospace firms look for share of higher defense budget
By Ken Schachter
The Trump administration’s plan to increase defense and security spending by $54 billion presents Long Island aerospace companies with an “opportunity we don’t want to miss,” a longtime executive said Tuesday.
To capitalize on the opening, Peter Rettaliata, former president and CEO of Hauppauge-based Air Industries Group, said the aerospace companies must press their agenda with the region’s politicians.
“Politics and promotion will be the most important things for us now,” he said. “Aerospace is a business seeped in politics.”
Rettaliata said that a unified effort by the Island’s defense companies is essential. He spoke at a meeting of the Aerospace and Defense Diversification Alliance in Peacetime Transition, or ADDAPT, a nonprofit that promotes regional defense and aerospace companies. The event was held at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City.
“You can speak much more powerfully as a group,” said Rettaliata, chairman emeritus of ADDAPT. “[You must] support incumbent office holders.”
Another speaker at the ADDAPT event, investment banker and consultant William Alderman of Danbury, Connecticut-based Alderman & Company, said that the expected “bump” in defense spending under Trump will come in the wake of a steady slide since 1950 when calculated as a percentage of gross domestic product.
In 1988 U.S. defense spending amounted to 5.6 percent of gross domestic product, according to data from the World Bank. That declined to 3.3 percent in 2015, according to the data. The world as a whole, by comparison, spent an average of 3.4 percent of countries’ gross domestic product in 1988 and 2.3 percent in 2015.
Rettaliata also proposed tighter integration among Long Island’s small defense and aerospace contractors as a way of offering prime contractors like Boeing Co. a suite of products and services that simplify the subcontracting process.
“This is a region,” he said. “That’s how these [prime manufacturers] think.”
From a political perspective, Rettaliata said, the aerospace industry is valuable as a generator of good jobs and as one of the few industries that produces a surplus in the U.S. balance of trade.