The growth potential for defense lobbyists in the Trump administration

December 1, 2016

 

There has been a rush from Washington D.C. lobbyists and their respective defensive companies clients to join the new Donald Trump administration, believing a military buildup is inevitable once January comes around. As many were surprised by the election’s result, there has been a greater flurry than usual to take stakes in president-elect Trump’s administration. There has been a particular focus on possible deals surrounding Trump’s proposals to “modernize the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal, expand the Navy and enlarge the Army and Marine Corps," according to Politico. This could be a booming industry involving outside defense companies, who look to their lobbyists to “protect or grow their contracts.” Currently, the defense budget already ranges around $600 billion per year, which is more than half of discretionary spending or the spending limits decided specifically by Congress. This is 53 percent of the $1 trillion discretionary budget with the closest other spending being around $73 billion for government provisions. Trump has called the US military structure a “disaster,” even though a copious amount of money is spent yearly, perhaps highlighting throwing money doesn’t always yield results. The U.S. spends four times more than China and 10 times more than Russia’s defense systems.

 

Of course, this may not be all “get rich quick schemes” for lobbyists, as there is a level of unpredictability for what the defense policies and perhaps more importantly the budget will resemble in the next administration. Trump has previously called for an even greater increase in defense spending through the creation of an additional 42 Navy ships raising the number to 392. This gives an ideal position for clients of lobbyists, global defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, to capitalize. The president-elect has also pushed for the formation of thousands of more soldiers, and “an acceleration of the Pentagon’s $1 trillion ‘modernization’ program for the nuclear arsenal.” These ambitious feats could provide areas of interest for lobbyists wanting to promote their defense contractor clients.

 

On the other side of the coin, Trump may damage the current $60 billion defense surplus surrounding trade, because of his protectionist stance, and pledge to “renegotiate bilateral and multilateral trade pacts to get better terms and threatened to increase tariffs on imports," according to Politico. This has some firms concerned over a possible trade war and even loss of arms deals, which could be costly.

 

Others have limited concerns, including Harris Corporation, a defense and information technology contractor, led by CEO Bill Brown who “is optimistic about the prospect of increased defense spending.” Time will be the strongest factor in this uncertain game where lobbyists, are asking preliminary questions revolving around budget and cabinet positions, because little had been planned for Trump take over of power, so it is unclear what may come to fruition. Lobbyists are in a poised position to take direct action within the Trump policy team, which has a smaller number of seasoned advisors. The dearth of experience within Trump's policy team may increase the opportunity for lobbyists to bring their expertise to a new Republican presidency, supported by both a Republican House and Senate. Defense and other policy lobbyists will jump into the new era, well versed for a new direction of key legislation, and even preparing for executive orders turning over previous, decidedly outdated regulations. Recently, the lobbyist industry had been taking a financial toll, as a divided government lessened the need for spending on lobbyists since there was little congressional activity. In this coming congressional session there may be an influx of pursuits, putting lobbyists in a prime position to capitalize on the possible defense initiatives for themselves and their clients.

 

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