Industry sees few changes with new House defense appropriations chief

Defense industry officials and analysts say they expect a seamless transition when Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., takes the gavel of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and promptly gets to work on the fiscal 2011 Defense spending bill when the House reconvenes later this month.

He has not been tapped officially for the chairmanship, but House Majority Leader Hoyer has said he expects Dicks, the second-ranking Democrat on the panel, to take over after the death this week of longtime chairman Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.

Dicks brings with him strong ties to aerospace giant Boeing Co., which builds many of its largest planes in Everett, Wash., near his district. But while he's known as an unabashed Boeing champion, defense sources said they don't expect his chairmanship to bring about a significant change in defense spending priorities.

After all, Boeing, the country's No. 2 defense contractor, hardly went unnoticed during Murtha's tenure as chairman, which was marked with multibillion-dollar congressional add-ons benefitting Boeing's product line, such as the C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane and the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

"I don't think a whole lot changes," said one defense lobbyist, observing that Dicks' priorities are largely aligned with what Murtha advocated.

But the two lawmakers diverged last year when Murtha fought and lost a battle to split the contract to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force between rival bidders Boeing and a team led by Northrop Grumman Corp. and EADS, the European consortium behind Airbus.

Murtha hoped splitting the contract would curtail what he feared would be an endless cycle of challenges to contract awards. Dicks has favored giving the contract to Boeing alone.

The Air Force is expected to release a final request for proposals this month, in anticipation of selecting a contractor this summer. Northrop and EADS already have threatened to pull out of the competition unless there are significant changes made to the draft RFP, which they argue favors the Boeing plane.

Dicks' chairmanship could have a psychological affect on down-and-out Northrop supporters. "You're adding further weight against a Northrop decision to bid," said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at the Teal Group.

A Northrop spokesman said the firm enjoys a good working relationship with Dicks.

By law, Dicks cannot say who gets the contract, and he or other lawmakers cannot pressure the Government Accountability Office in deciding any contract protest. But he can try to set funding levels and add conditions or riders to the tanker program in the fiscal 2011 Defense spending bill.

"If the award goes to Northrop/EADS, you can bet there's going to be trouble in the appropriations subcommittee," said Gordon Adams, the Office of Management and Budget's associate director of national security during the Clinton administration. "If the award goes to Boeing, you can bet there won't be."

Meanwhile, Adams says Dicks will lead the subcommittee in the tradition of his predecessor.

"Appropriators are appropriators are appropriators, and it kind of doesn't matter whether it's a [Rep.] Jerry Lewis or a Jack Murtha or a [former GOP Sen.] Ted Stevens or a [Sen.] Daniel Inouye or a Norm Dicks," Adams said. "You have to have a particular frame of mind to be an appropriator. You have to like details, you have to like dealing with the money, and you really have to enjoy earmarks."

In the fiscal 2010 Defense spending bill, Murtha sponsored 23 earmarks worth $76.5 million, according to public disclosures. Dicks obtained 14 earmarks worth $39 million -- a figure likely to swell when he becomes chairman.

Dicks will have to realize that, to be effective, he must share the wealth, as Murtha always did, Adams said. "They all have to make deals and appropriators are the master dealmakers," he added.

The biggest change, however, may be who benefits from those deals.

Dicks, though a close adviser to Murtha as the next-in-line on the panel, will have his own friends and allies.

For the lawmakers who had curried favor and collected chits with Murtha, "that bank has gone bust," said Steve Ellis, a vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.