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Defense Contractors Softening on Spending Reform

By Sean Parnell

Defense Contractors Softening on Spending Reform

One impediment to the spending reform that is needed to reduce our debt and deficit is the heavy influence that many government contractors have in spending debates. Many large contractors, particularly in the defense realm, argue for ever-increasing budgets. After all, it’s good for their bottom line. But that ugly manifestation of crony capitalism may be shifting a bit, if this report in National Defense Magazine is any indication. Some defense company CEOs are coming around on the question of Pentagon spending cuts, which they see as inevitable. That’s a significant turnaround from even a few months ago. Here’s what David Langstaff, CEO of TSAC Inc., told National Defense:

 Industry leaders have been telling Congress to “avoid sequestration, but don’t touch my budgets,” a stance that has been counterproductive, he said. “We can’t have it both ways.” Defense firms have to be willing to “part with short-term interests” if that is what it takes to achieve a long-term plan that averts sequestration, Langstaff said. “We need to stop pretending there’s a scenario out there that offers no defense cuts.” An “orderly” reduction is a far better alternative than the fiscal cliff, he added. “Additional cuts are not only possible but also necessary, but cuts need to be strategically driven.”

That sounds a lot like what Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) has been arguing for months. In the post-Iraq and Afghanistan environment, bringing some restraint to defense spending after a decade of build-up is both proper and wise. But how we achieve restraint matters. That’s the point behind our “Defend & Reform” series of case studies, in which we explore positive approaches to defense reform that would protect our force readiness and ensure our nation’s strength for the future. And as I noted on Monday, there’s no path forward to reduce the deficit and the national debt without reform to the nation’s entitlement programs. But could it be that the shift in thinking among defense leaders, who only a few months ago were against cuts in Pentagon spending, could be replicated among those who block entitlement reform? At a certain point, the math becomes undeniable. Best to act now to put these programs on a sustainable path for the future. Kudos to defense CEOs for recognizing the need for reform. Pete Hegseth is the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, and the former executive director of Vets for Freedom. He is an infantry officer in the Army National Guard, and has served tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.