Gov. Martin O'Malley called on the federal government Monday to sustain funding for aerospace research, calling the state's growing industry a critical part of the Maryland's "innovation economy."
During a tour of ATK Space Systems Division in Beltsville, the governor said it was the state's responsibility to make sure such companies have "a pipeline of skilled employees" but that the future of space technology depends on the federal government's commitment to the industry.
O'Malley called on Congress to avoid "applying the sort of mindless meat cleaver of sequestration cuts" which have been already forced Department of Defense employees onto furloughs.
"The federal government needs to do its job," O'Malley said.
The governor estimated 145,000 people work in aerospace in Maryland, including 461 at ATK's Beltsville division. The company designs heating and cooling systems for satellites and is developing a way to repair satellites while they are still in orbit.
Tom Wilson, vice president and general manager of ATK's Space Systems Division, said that federal spending cuts have yet to directly impact the company, but the persistent threat that it will makes it difficult to plan for and finance future projects.
"We don't really know yet," Wilson said. "That's part of the problem."
Wilson was among several Maryland aerospace leaders who met with O'Malley while he was in France last month for the Paris Air Show.