Defense And The State Of The Union

Last Updated Jan 28, 2010 7:16 AM EST

Last night President Obama gave his first State of the Union address. While the speech was long he did not spend a great deal of time discussing his plans for national defense. With the budget coming out next Tuesday it might have been a place where he could have laid some ground work with the American people on his plans. He addressed some specific issues like personnel policy, nuclear weapons and the engagement in Afghanistan.

In fact if you look at The Washington Post's dedicated page there is no excerpt of the speech for "defense" per se. There was one line about ending acquisition of "Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use" which one would assume is a reference to the F-22 Raptor. The cancellation of this program was a blow to Boeing (BA) and struggle with Congress.

He also referred to "eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq" which one could interpret as criticism of the Army's LOGCAP contracts that required quick awards and a great deal of work. Costs were high but the strain on the military's logistical capability forced rapid action and war is unfortunately messy and expensive.

He did congratulate the U.S. military and their accomplishments over the last few years in stating that "in the last year, hundreds of al-Qaida's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed -- far more than in 2008." He also committed to the "surge" in Afghanistan.

Overall the State of the Union speech supports the plans laid out in the first defense budget and is expected to continue in the 2011 funding plan for the Pentagon. Cut some bigger weapons programs, start a few new ones, concentrate funding on operations and enlarging the ground forces. Obama's proposed "discretionary spending" freeze will not affect national security assuming it gets through Congress. President Bush actually did a good job of holding down growth in non-defense spending during his eight years but unfortunately in 2009 with the Stimulus and financial rescue legislation the total government spending increased dramatically.

The speech broke know new ground on defense acquisition and spending and most defense contractors so far are predicting a flat 2010 and 2011 when it comes to revenue. Unless there is a dramatic change in how the Federal government spends this is probably the conventional viewpoint and right now looks about right.

  • Matthew Potter

    Matthew Potter is a resident of Huntsville, Ala., where he works supporting U.S. Army aviation programs. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he began work as a defense contractor in Washington D.C. specializing in program management and budget development and execution. In the last 15 years Matthew has worked for several companies, large and small, involved in all aspects of government contracting and procurement. He holds two degrees in history as well as studying at the Defense Acquisition University. He has written for Seeking Alpha and at his own website, DefenseProcurementNews.com.