Northrop Grumman CEO: ‘Be thoughtful about Pentagon budget cuts’

Wesley Bush, Northrop Grumman’s chief executive officer, on Tuesday warned that cuts to the defense budget could save money for a few years but hurt national security in the long run. 

A growing chorus of lawmakers and think tanks are making the case that the Pentagon’s budget should be on the chopping block as part of efforts to reduce the nation’s deficit.  

The Pentagon’s budget represents more than half of the country’s discretionary spending. The defense budget for fiscal year 2010 is $693.3 billion, while the request for 2011 is $708.2 billion. Those amounts include funding for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bush said that it would be a “better investment” to keep funding weapons systems programs and other technologies rather than letting military capabilities “atrophy” and investing in defense only when the need arises. Reconstituting when needed could prove to be a costly proposition, Bush indicated. 

“It would be easy to simply say, ‘Alright, we’ve had a substantial investment in defense for over a decade, why don’t we simply just stick with what we got, stop all new programs and build out some of the programs we have invested in,’ ” Bush said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

Bush urged a “thoughtful balance” between the need to reduce budget deficits and preserving future military capabilities. 

Bush’s resistance to including the Pentagon’s budget as part of significant cuts to government spending does not come as a surprise. The Pentagon is the defense industry’s main customer. In large part, the Pentagon budget funds everything from research and development to the production of weapons systems.