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Several major defense contractors reduced their lobbying expenditures in the first quarter of 2009, even as the companies are quietly trying to reverse President Barack Obamas proposal to slash the budget for several high-profile military aircraft.
With the presidential helicopter, the C-17 military cargo plane and the F-22 Raptor all on the chopping block, defense contractors like AgustaWestland and Boeing are trying to persuade lawmakers to reinstate funding for their programs.
Were very proud of the helicopter, said AgustaWestlands Daniel Hill, referring to the VH-71A presidential aircraft. Funding for the helicopter was slashed in the presidents budget.
Hill added: Were going to cooperate with the Navy and with our prime contractor Lockheed Martin, but as long as people have questions on the Hill and want to speak to the company that makes the helicopter, were more than happy to help them out and give them factual information.
While AgustaWestland doesnt expect additional money to be put into the defense supplemental spending bill moving in both chambers this week, the company hopes that funding is included in the regular Defense appropriations bill.
AgustaWestlands lobbyists are distributing a one-page memo with an on-budget option for replacing the presidential helicopter fleet.
The overall program is over two-thirds complete and the first missionized aircraft will enter flight test in May 2009, according to the memo.
The company spent $156,000 on lobbying during the first quarter of 2009, down nearly $10,000 from the same period in 2008. AgustaWestland has BKSH & Associates, Ervin Technical Associates and Beau Boulter on retainer.
The Obama administration has pressured House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) not to add programs to the budget and defense contractors are going to have a harder time getting lawmakers to reinstate programs, according to defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute.
A sea change is upon us in the way money is appropriated in terms of military programs, Thompson said.
In general it is going to be difficult for Democratic appropriators to disagree with a Democratic president on whether weapons should be added when the country is facing a huge budget deficit, he added.
The Obama administration has also vowed that this will be the last wartime supplemental spending bill, and that future spending for conflicts abroad will go through the regular Defense appropriations bill. The supplementals have been magnets for additional defense spending in years past.
But despite facing program cuts, defense contractors have largely decreased their lobbying spending in 2009. Boeing, Northrop Grumman and EADS all cut their lobbying expenditures during the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2008.
Boeing dropped its spending on lobbying from $2.8 million during the first quarter of 2008 to $2.4 million so far this year. Northrop cut back from $3.3 million to $2.6 million, and EADS dropped from $850,000 to $520,000, according to Senate lobbying disclosure reports.
Lockheed Martin was the only defense contractor to significantly increase its spending. The defense contractor nearly doubled its spending, from $3.7 million during the first quarter of 2008 to $6.4 million so far this year, according to Senate lobbying disclosure reports.