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F-22 Vote Worries Arms Investors

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In what may prove to be a good sign for future Pentagon budget battles, an analysis has noted that defense industry investors were "spooked" by last week's Senate vote to end the F-22 program.

The most relevant section of the report is summarized in the Orlando Sentinel:

Investors fret that the F-22 action could be a sign of things to come, MacDougall said.

With the country battlling recession, budget deficits and skyrocketing healthcare costs, there will be growing pressures on big-ticket defense spending -- such as the F-22 program, according to the report.

'Something has to give,' MacDougall wrote. 'The question is, if defense spending -- currently about 21 percent of the entire budget -- is reduced, what will happen to the profitability of companies like Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing and Northrop Grumman?'

We have bigger problems to worry about than the stock prices of the major weapons contractors, like whether our overall spending on security -- military and non-military -- is actually buying the things we need to address the challenges of terrorism, climate change, epidemics of disease, entrenched poverty and other threats to global security. One effort to map out a new investment strategy is called the Unified Security Budget, crafted by a task force headed by the Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Institute for Policy Studies. The report advocates cuts of over $60 billion in unnecessary weapons systems -- not just the F-22 but dangerous and provocative systems from nuclear weapons to missile defense. On the positive side of the ledger it proposes substantial increases in spending on diplomacy, foreign assistance, public health, and programs to secure "loose" nuclear weapons and bomb-making materials.

To build on the F-22 victory and move towards a budget that puts real security needs above contractor-driven pork barrel spending, we need to recognize and support the indispensable work of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that helped make it possible. A network of organizations did important work in educating swing Senators and getting out the anti-F-22 message in the print media and the blogosphere. Key players included Women's Action for New Directions, Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, Peace Action, True Majority, the Project on Government Oversight, Taxpayers for Common Sense,,, the Center for Defense Information, Common Cause, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Center for International Policy, the Center for Arms Control and Non-prolilferation, and others (disclosure: my project, the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, was also involved in this effort). Even with the president and the secretary of defense on the right side, it took what President Eisenhower described as "an alert and knowledgeable citizenry" to put the anti-F-22 effort over the top. These groups -- hopefully joined by others -- will be key to building on the F-22 victory.

If this means Lockheed Martin and its cohorts need to find a better way to make a living -- or at least diversify their sources of revenue -- so be it.