Rate of Return: Defense Contractors


A new bill is in the hopper aiming to increase oversight of defense contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va) and 21 Democratic co-sponsors, the "Commission on Wartime Contracting Act" (S. 1825) would create an eight-member panel that would review contracting procedures in the war zones, and report back to Congress on their findings within two years.

If the bill becomes law, the panel will certainly have their job cut out for them — and not just in detecting waste, fraud and other contract abuses. Many of the contractors are generous political contributors, and have been for years.

How generous? A quick review of the 43 companies that won $1 billion or more in federal contracts during fiscal year 2007 — most of them defense contractors — shows they’ve given more than $117 million in federal campaign contributions since 1990.

Lockheed Martin leads the list, with nearly $33.5 billion in contracts for FY2007 and more than $12 million in contributions over the years. Other top contractors included Boeing ($22.8 billion in contracts, $11 million in contributions); Northrop Grumman ($18.6 billion in contracts, $8 million in contributions); General Dynamics ($12.3 billion in contracts; $10 million in contributions), and Raytheon ($10.9 billion in contracts, $7 million in contributions).

That’s a lot of numbers, but keep this in mind: all the contracts were in billions (that’s with a “b”) and covered only one fiscal year. All the contributions were in millions (with an “m”), and spanned more than 16 years.

In all, not a bad return on their investment.