Big-Ticket Jet Fighters Take Back Seat To Troop Needs
Congressional Democrats have made it clear they want to curb
spending on defense programs. That may be a problem for contractors
like Lockheed Martin, which handles two of the US Air Force's
highest-ticket items -- the F-22 Raptor and F-35
Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
In an analysis released this week, the director of the Arms
Trade Research Center at the World Policy Institute, Bill Hartung,
says trends indicate defense spending is about to tumble, relative
to levels just five years ago.
Hartung notes contractors have collected more than twice the
amount of money since President George W. Bush took office -- from
$144 billion in fiscal year 2001, to $294 in FY2006.
But last year, the amount of spending increased only 8.7 percent
-- the smallest since Bush took office. And that was before
Democrats took control of the House and Senate, running on a policy
of reduced spending.
"I think we're coming to the end of the boom," he said in an
interview with the Dallas Morning News. "The Iraq war will, I
think, increasingly deal with nuts and bolts, not big-ticket
weapons systems, and there's already some talk about reducing
spending on things like the F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter to make
room for spending on troop increases."
There is some good news for defense contractors. Hartung expects
the drop in spending to impact roughly five percent of the
3,000,000 defense-related jobs -- a far cry from the drastic cuts
experienced in the early 1990s, in the aftermath of the Cold War.
The analyst adds programs like the Raptor will probably be cut back
-- but won't be dropped entirely.
"It's hard to imagine them eliminating a big program like that,
but they could certainly cut the number or stretch out the
procurement cycle little longer than they already have," Hartung