Road Show with Senators, Brought to You by Pentagon Contractors

By Anna Meier and Suzanne Dershowitz

Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte hit the road this week in Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia and North Carolina to preach against looming Pentagon spending cuts. Call it the "Misinformation Road Show" brought to you by defense industry contractors.

The trio of Republican senators are throwing out words like "devastating" and "draconian" to describe the potential across-the-board spending cuts, known as "sequestration." Graham even warned people in Fayetteville that "Y'all are about to get screwed if this thing happens."

Ah, nothing like a little fear and loathing to rile up swing state voters. Too bad, their message mostly parrots the talking points of the major defense industry contractors.

What McCain, Graham and Ayotte aren't mentioning are the record earnings by large Pentagon contractors, the exorbitant executive salaries paid at these firms, the billions of dollars lost to waste and mismanagement and the fact that several politically-diverse national security experts say even if the deepest Pentagon cuts occur (and that scenario is unlikely) it will have a negligible effect on industry profits.

The threats of mass layoffs are simply political scare tactics by an industry that can afford to spend tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions while crying that the "sky is falling."

What's more, big Pentagon contractors have hundreds of billions of dollars in backlogged orders that will maintain their revenue streams and keep their employees busy delivering goods and services for years to come.

If you want the real story, see this detailed briefing paper that the Project On Government Oversight and its allies put together that takes on the industry talking points.

The American people seem to disagree with Pentagon contractor lobbyists--they're ready to rein in runaway Pentagon spending. According to a May 2012 study by the Stimson Center, 62 percent of Americans support reductions in the defense budget.

It's a view shared by experts as well.

"There is plenty of fat to cut before laying off workers is even considered," said Ben Freeman, a national security investigator at POGO. "POGO and many other groups on both sides of the political spectrum have identified hundreds of billions of dollars in wasteful spending at the Pentagon."

But even if sequestration were implemented in full, the Pentagon's budget would only drop to about $472 billion, or the same amount spent in FY 2007, adjusted for inflation.

As our briefing paper points out, the talking points that McCain, Graham and Ayotte will cover are backed by industry fronts, such as Second to None, which is funded by the Aerospace Industries Association. The Coalition for the Common Defense has also recently published over 200 pages on how the defense cuts will affect jobs and small businesses state by state. This publication is a product of the Center for Security Policy, a neoconservative think tank affiliated with executives and lobbyists from across the spectrum of top U.S. weapons manufacturers.

If you can get into one of these propaganda sessions, more of which will likely pop up in a town near you sometime before the election, be sure to ask why the defense industry is threatening to cut workers when they have so much money to pay their executives.

If Pentagon contractors were actually feeling economic pressure, they could certainly trim excesses at the top before letting go thousands of rank-and-file employees. Pentagon contractors' top executives enjoy compensation packages on par with Wall Street CEOs. The CEOs of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, and Northrup Grumman all made between $22 and $27.6 million in total annual compensation for 2011, and David Cote of Honeywell brought home a whopping $37.8 million.

Don't buy what the defense industry and their surrogates are trying to sell you. The sky isn't falling: There's plenty of wasteful spending that can be trimmed from the Pentagon budget that would in fact make us more secure in our economy and our defense.

Anna Meier is a communications associate and Suzanne Dershowitz is a policy fellow for the Project On Government Oversight.