It’s difficult, says Guy Hicks, vice president of government relations for aerospace giant EADS, “not knowing what the future looks like and knowing that you have a certain lack of control.”
“Everyone is nervous and worried. There’s a hopelessness with regard to the federal government and Congress generally,” said Caren Turner, a lobbyist who used to work for companies that build components for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Interest groups representing non-defense categories of spending stand to lose from the across-the-board cuts too. But defense is used to winning, to the point that Congress sometimes authorizes expensive weapons systems the Pentagon does not want.
And it has spent billions of dollars over the past few decades on lobbying fees and millions in campaign contributions to keep winning.
While weapons makers have been outspent in recent years by other sectors, including health care and financial services, defense punches above its weight politically by arguing that its programs are vital to national security and job security in the many Congressional districts where its employees vote.
Big defense contracts are often spread across dozens of states, which magnifies the companies’ clout on Capitol Hill.
Congress kept the Boeing C-7 transport plane going for many years longer than the Pentagon wanted by getting members to add funds to appropriations bills.
Successful lobbying also first created and then sustained work on a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which benefited General Electric, and it took a presidential veto threat to ultimately block it.
But these were very specific program initiatives - this is an order of magnitude more complex, beyond the influence of any one committee or member.