“The companies will put up a fight (against cuts),” said former U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, now chairman of the Center for a New American Security think tank. “But as long as the civilian and military leadership stick together, I don’t think the companies will win.”
In Washington, a city full of defense lobbyists and where major firms help fund many private foundations that help draft policy, there is no shortage of authorities pointing to potential threats.
China almost invariably tops the list, with its military spending perhaps only a fifth of that of the United States but by some estimates doubling every five years. Long-standing troublespots such as the Middle East also have not gone away.
The argument from the AIA and others, however, goes well beyond the strategic - essentially saying that defense projects themselves are effectively a common good, driving economic activity and innovation at a difficult time.
Some are openly skeptical, even within the industry.
“We shouldn’t build a carrier because it creates jobs,” said Mike Petters, chief executive of shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls , the largest employer in several U.S. states including Virginia, whose votes could help decide the Nov. 6 presidential election. “We should do it because we decide we need an aircraft carrier.”
‘YET ANOTHER SWITCH’
Critics say European military purchases are already often dictated less by strategy than by the conflicting needs to reduce deficits while supporting “national champion” defense firms like Britain’s BAE or Italy’s Finmeccanica.
When Britain’s newly elected government began its strategic defense review in 2010, it found itself severely limited by the cost of cancelling expensive pre-agreed contracts such as the purchase of two new aircraft carriers.