Navy suppliers returning to work; USAF's engine reversal; Drive-through job interviews; and more...

The first shots in the annual defense-budget battle arrived  just two weeks into the year, in the form of a blunt statement by Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations: “We need more money.”

Now a group of progressive lawmakers say defense spending should be cut, and the money put toward the coronavirus response.

The 29 Democrats call on the leaders of the House Armed Services Committee to enact defense spending “below last year’s authorized level.”

Congress approved $738 billion in defense spending in fiscal 2020; the Trump administration has asked lawmakers for $740.5 billion in fiscal 2021. The Pentagon’s share of the 2021 budget proposal is $705.4 billion, so it’s already lower than this year’s $713 billion budget. It’s also worth noting that Congress gave the Pentagon an additional $10 billion in March as part of its $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus, and that lawmakers have agreed to cap 2021 defense funds at $741 billion.

Still, that hasn’t stopped some lawmakers, such as Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., from calling for more Pentagon money. Cotton is pushing legislation that would put $43 billion toward countering China.

“We see this as a preemptive negotiation,” Cowen & Company analyst Roman Schweizer wrote in a May 20 note to investors of the progressive’s call to cut defense spending. “Passage of the final defense authorization & appropriations bills won't be along party lines; both will ... need to be bipartisan. We still question timing & leverage: passage before/after the election.”

Schweizer writes that the group of lawmakers “would cut defense under any circumstance.”

Not surprisingly, the military leaders don’t want their budget cut.

“To me it’s the wrong time to be making defense cuts because I want to be able to deter any type of great power conflict,” Gen. Stephen Wilson, the U.S. Air Force vice chief of staff, said Wednesday at a Mitchell Institute event.

“Today the force is old and the force is too small. We would argue this is not a time to be advocating for defense cuts and we need to stay the course,” Wilson said. “We have a good plan to build the Air Force we need and we need to continue on that plan to do just that.”

Dave Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who is dean of the Mitchell Institute, argues the Pentagon’s should align with the military’s duties outlined in the National Security Strategy. 

“If we’re going to meet the demands of the National Security Strategy, we need to resource it to be able to do that,” Deptula said. “Or, the other choice is, you change and lower the demands of the National Security Strategy.”


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Coronavirus Still Delaying Weapons Work, But Some Bright Spots

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“We're doing our part to make sure we've got the workloads present for the workforce to work as we continue to work through any delayed disruption, and that we are being good partners in terms of rapidly paying out the bills,” Geurts said. “This is all about creating stability, both for the defense workforce and as a foundation to help the country as it rebounds economically.”

Supplier watch: Of the 10,000 companies tracked by Geurts’ office, 250 closed temporarily for coronavirus-related reasons over the past two-plus months, he said. All but 35 are open again.

Lockheed Martin expects to deliver fewer F-35s this yearbetween 18 and 24 less than the 141 planned, the company said this week. Executives have been warning of coronavirus-related F-35 production delays as suppliers have faced workforce challenges in recent months.

HII Tries Drive-in Job Interviews

While job interviews over video calls are getting a lot of attention in our new socially distanced world, Huntington Ingalls Industries is trying something else: meeting prospective employees in their cars. On Friday, the shipbuilder will host a drive-in job fair at its Ingalls Shipbuilding site in Pascagoula, Mississippi. “Event attendees will have the opportunity to apply for open positions and speak to Ingalls recruiters and shipbuilders in person without having to exit their vehicle,” the company said. Attendees will drive around a loop with specific shipbuilding crafts set up along the way. “This event allows us to efficiently interface with interested applicants while practicing safe social distancing,” Edmond Hughes, vice president of human resources and administration at Ingalls, said in a statement. 

In Reversal, Air Force to Compete F-15EX Engines 

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Air Force Launches B-52 Engine Competition

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Northrop Scores $2.37B Missile Warning Satellite Deal

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Teams to Build Rapid Tunnel-Digging Machine for Military

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Every State Invited to Bid For Space Command HQ

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Making Moves

Jennifer Santos, the recently fired deputy assistant defense secretary for industrial policy, is now working for Navy acquisition chief Guerts. “She'll be helping me specifically in this R&D transformation as we really continue to look at both our processes and our priorities and get that whole system aligned to operate at the speed we need to to be relevant and effective, executing the National Defense Strategy,” Geurts said Wednesday. Politico reported that Santos was fired amid questions about the Pentagon’s efforts to obtain coronavirus-related gear. Scott Baum, the principal director for industrial policy, is filling Santos’ prior position in an acting role.