The Night Beat: Defense Contractors Plot Their Strategy

Good evening.

AFTER BYRD: Make no mistake: West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, wants to run for Senate in West Virginia, so he will likely appoint someone to fill Robert Byrd's seat who does not harbor additional ambitions. West Virginia is a weird state. The Democratic and Republican benches are very limited. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, would be the logical choice to challenge Manchin, but she's got a good shot at becoming governor if Manchin runs for Senate. (Capito could then run for Senate when Jay Rockefeller retires -- waaaay in the future.) Little-known fact about Manchin: he's one of Alabama coach Nick Saban's best friends from childhood.

BUSINESS BRIEF: The Atlantic Business Channel's Dan Indiviglio points the "Conference Board's ever-important consumer confidence reading for June," which comes out tomorrow morning: "Sentiment has been increasing for the past three months, but some reports are indicating that confidence has deteriorated since then. If consumers are growing uncomfortable spending again, then that will support the view that the recovery will be very slow."

As noted earlier, financial regulatory reform is now in stasis, with White House and Senate efforts focused on convincing Sen. Russ Feingold that the bill has real teeth.

THE TEA PARTY CONVENTION: On a conference call with the Republican National Committee's temporary delegate selection committee today, RNC chairman Michael Steele predicted that the "Tea Party hootenanny" would be omnipresent at the 2012 convention. Other RNC members talked, with a mix of affection and bemusement, of how quickly Tea Party activists are becoming forces within their states. The official topic, according to someone who took notes on the call, was the 2012 delegate selection rules. The RNC is mindful that many of those delegates will be sympathetic toward the Tea Party movement and thus wary of any national effort to re-allocate delegates and penalize states that attempt to change primary and caucus dates.

So the Tea Party is already having an effect on the 2012 process ... while the RNC is proactively deciding (or trying) to be cognizant of not appearing too heavy-handed. Potential candidates themselves have solid investments in the status quo, which will make for an interesting debate. More on this tomorrow.

ASH'S RULES: Defense contractors are still digesting new guidance from Ashton Carter, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. The pendulum has swung in the direction of reform; during the Bush administration, it swung far in the direction of corporatizing how the Pentagon does business, either in providing basic goods and services or providing functions and capabilities, including those that are most properly done by government. Aside from problems of oversight, contractors were often called upon to be the lead systems integrators for major weapons systems -- an inherently governmental function.  

Government is industry's favorite entity to do business with, not merely because of the volume of contracts it provides but because government often pays its bills ahead of time regardless of results. One BIG change: the addition of "affordability" as a "requirement." The Pentagon has always, obviously, taken costs into account before awarding contracts. But now, in the requirement matrix that will be drawn up for new weapons systems, warfighting capability will be considered alongside long-term affordability. The major defense contractors are going to say nice things about this policy, but behind the scenes, they are furiously trying to figure out how many jobs per congressional district could theoretically be lost if the acquisitions process is reformed. Lockheed Martin may have the most to lose because it has a lot of integrated systems.  

EARLY COOKIN': Here's the first paragraph from Charlie Cook's latest column: "With the Supreme Court's decision Monday to restrict state and local government from tougher gun control laws, some observers assumed that it would become a major issue and have a meaningful impact come November. My bet is that, in terms of the midterm election, this decision will be a nothing-burger and not even cause a ripple. Not that there aren't people who often care deeply about gun rights or gun restrictions. But in an election year with two wars, a 9.7 percent unemployment rate and an environmental catastrophe on the Gulf coast, there is just no room for cultural issues this year. This year is about very big issues and not the kind of year in which social and cultural wedge issues can dominate."

Read the full column tomorrow morning on NationalJournal.com.

BRIEFLY:

-- On Friday, the Nixon Library plans to release hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and other media related to Daniel Patrick Moynihan's White House tenure.

-- Patrick Ottenhoff's Map of the Day points to an assessment of the relative strength of gun control laws in various states. "Wyoming had by far the fewest restrictions, followed by Vermont, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Montana. The states with the most restrictions were Hawaii and Massachusetts, followed by Illinois and California."

-- Adm. Michael Mullen is in Colorado; he will be at the Ft. Carson Warrior Transition Unit tomorrow. (Tonight, the New York Times' David Sanger will moderate a discussion with the Joint Chiefs Chairman at the Aspen Institute's Security Forum.)

Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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