Defense contractors fear 'Chairman McCain' will cut them off

Conventional wisdom, propagated by shallow political analysis and Hollywood clichés, holds that Republicans rather than Democrats are champions of a bloated and corrupt defense industry. Not so, say members of the defense industry.

Sources in the defense contracting sector told Politico’s Jeremy Herb on Thursday that the prospect of a Republican Senate majority and a Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is positively terrifying.

“I’ve heard several defense lobbyists and companies say under their breath they hope that the Senate doesn’t flip just to avoid a McCain chairmanship,” one unnamed defense contractor said.

The report indicates that some defense contractors feel he “unfairly targets them” and is “deeply suspicious” of some of the military’s private providers. McCain confirmed on Thursday that defense contractors were right to be afraid.

“I’m sure that many of them are very nervous,” the Arizona senator conceded. “If I were them, I would be.”

McCain added that he will pursue with “zeal” wasteful spending in the defense budget as chairman of that powerful committee.

McCain’s reputation is long-standing. He led a crusade against a 2001 Air Force deal to lease 100 Boeing tankers, helping to uncover emails in an investigation that sent an Air Force acquisition official and Boeing’s chief financial officer to prison. Boeing’s chief executive at the time resigned in the fallout.

More recently, he’s taken aim at some of the Pentagon’s biggest weapons programs, from the Air Force’s F-35 and F-22 fighters to the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship. His latest target has been the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, which awarded a sole-source contract to United Launch Alliance, a Lockheed Martin-Boeing joint venture.

“The amount of money given to these companies is staggering,” said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, ahead of the implementation of budget cuts mandated by Sequestration in 2013, “but what is really mind-boggling is the willingness of the DoD to provide additional taxpayer dollars to the same bad actors again and again.”

At the time, many liberal Democrats supported Amey’s claim. It will be interesting to see if they still agree if Republicans retake control of the upper chamber of Congress.