The U.S. military has a reputation as a somewhat secretive organization. But in one respect at least, it ranks among the most “open” of our government agencies. The Department of Defense is positively sunshine-y in the frequency and clarity with which it describes the contracts it issues to private companies, updating them daily on its website.
So what has the Pentagon been up to this week?
The Department of Defense requested $614 billion in total funding for the current fiscal year 2013. Spread over 52 weeks, that works out to $11.8 billion in spending. And with about 47% of that money, historically, going to personnel costs, that leaves about $6.2 billion a week to spend on military hardware (planes, trains, and main battle tanks), infrastructure projects (such as resiting a VA hospital, dredging a river, or constructing an air base), services (engineering and software design work), and military supplies.
Last week, the Pentagon awarded contracts worth a combined $6.226 billion — putting it right on target to spend all the money it’s been allotted for this fiscal year, “sequester” notwithstanding. Where did the money go?
To Russia with cash
Well, probably the biggest news of the week, and certainly the most controversial, was a contact issued Monday to pay a Russian defense contractor, Rosoboronexport, $572.2 million (later revised down to $553.8 million) for 30 Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters — that we will promptly hand over to the Afghan National Securities Forces. This follows on a decision one week earlier to hand a Brazilian company, Embraer SA (ADR) (NYSE:ERJ) a $1 billion contract to build fighter planes for the Afghan Air Force.
In one respect, therefore, it appears that sequestration of defense spending may be having an effect on U.S. defense contractors — it’s forcing the Pentagon to be more careful about how it spends its cash, and to give more business to low-cost defense contractors from other countries.
Nor is the Pentagon the only actor pinching its pennies. Last week, The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) also headed to Brazil to sign a deal cooperating with Embraer SA (ADR) (NYSE:ERJ) on the global marketing of the latter’s KC-390 aerial refueling tanker.
Heavily into helicopters …
The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) also made news this week when it landed its second multibillion-dollar contract in as many weeks, for the sale of Chinook heavy lift helicopters. Two weeks ago, the U.S. Army ordered up $4 billion worth of the whirlybirds. This week, The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) won a $3.4 billion contract to sell more Chinooks to the militaries of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, with the U.S. government acting as the middleman.
… and softly into software
Another big winner for the week was Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT). The Pentagon granted Mr. Softy a contract worth up to $412.2 million for Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) Blue Badge cardholder support. This contract, whereby Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) will assist the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization with software design work, costs a lot — in part because Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is being asked to license access to its proprietary source code as part of the work.