WSJ: Attack on Georgia Gives Boost To Big U.S. Weapons Programs
Russia’s attack on Georgia has become an unexpected source of support for big U.S. weapons programs, including flashy fighter jets and high-tech destroyers, that have had to battle for funding this year because they appear obsolete for today’s conflicts with insurgent opponents.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has spent much of the year attempting to rein in some of the military’s most expensive and ambitious weapons systems — like the $143 million F-22 Raptor jet — because he thinks they are unsuitable for the lightly armed and hard-to-find militias, warlords and terrorist groups the U.S. faces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been opposed by an array of political interests and defense companies that want to preserve these multibillion-dollar programs and the jobs they create.
When Russia’s invading forces choked roads into Georgia with columns of armored vehicles and struck targets from the air, it instantly bolstered the case being made by some that the Defense Department isn’t taking the threat from Russia and China seriously enough. If the conflict in Georgia continues and intensifies, it could make it easier for defense companies to ensure the long-term funding of their big-ticket items.
For example, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. John Murtha, quickly seized on the Russia situation this week, saying that it indicates the Russians see the toll that operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are taking on the U.S. military.
“We’ve spent so many resources and so much attention on Iraq that we’ve lost sight of future threats down the road. The current conflict between Russia and Georgia is a perfect example,” said Rep. Murtha during a recent visit to his district.
Some Wall Street stock analysts early on saw the invasion as reason to make bullish calls on the defense sector. A report from JSA Research in Newport, R.I., earlier in the week called the invasion “a bell-ringer for defense stocks.”