Reuters: Making defense cuts seen tough for McCain, Obama
Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama both emphasize the need to curb Pentagon costs and focus on weapons relevant to today’s wars, but canceling big programs will be difficult no matter who is elected president.
Conventional wisdom holds that Democrats tend to scale back defense spending, but McCain, a leading member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has a long history of criticizing waste in Defense Department programs.
That has prompted speculation about declining orders for big defense contractors like Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, Northrop Grumman Corp, General Dynamics Corp, Raytheon Co, and others.
“Big-ticket weapons programs are in triple jeopardy after the election because many of the programs have nothing to do with the war in Iraq, we’re facing a huge budget deficit, and neither of the two major candidates is favorably disposed toward the industry,” said defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Virginia-based Lexington Institute.
But defense analysts agree a host of factors will make it tough for Obama or McCain to quickly scale back big weapons projects.
Key issues include the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an urgent need to replace billions of dollars of equipment worn out in those conflicts, homeland defense needs, plus a long history of intervention by lawmakers to protect high-paying defense jobs in their home districts.
“It’s very difficult to kill weapons programs,” said Nick Schwellenbach of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “Even if you did have a McCain or Obama administration go after major weapons programs, the contractors and their congressional allies would keep those programs alive — even on life support.”