Mehta agreed, noting that the biggest companies would survive a downturn in Pentagon spending, but many small and medium-sized suppliers were exiting the defense business and shifting to focus more on commercial products.
“We’re fighting for our suppliers to put their best and their brightest talent on our programs, and every time they turn on the news, and every time they see the dysfunction and the lack of predictability in investment ... that makes them a little less willing to take on that risk,” he said.
Mike Petters, chief executive of Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc, told reporters at a separate event that he was also concerned about thousands of smaller suppliers that build parts for aircraft carriers and other warships.
He said more than a year of uncertainty had taken its toll on many of those suppliers, where some parts are already only built by one company. Negotiations about the next aircraft carrier, due to be completed this year, would reveal whether other suppliers had already exited the business, he said.