Contractors wary of politics in Pentagon spending

George Hill, the is president of a defense contractor in Hampton, Va., said he thinks both Republicans and Democrats are playing politics with defense.
George Hill, the is president of a defense contractor in Hampton, Va., said he thinks both Republicans and Democrats are playing politics with defense.
CBS News

(CBS News) PENTAGON - During Monday night's debate, one of the sharpest disagreements between the two candidates was over defense spending.

It's a huge part of the federal budget and it employs a lot of Americans, so it's an important issue to many voters -- especially those who work in the industry.

George Hill is president of Advex, a defense contractor in Hampton, Va., that makes precision parts for USS Gerald Ford, the aircraft carrier due for launch in 2015.

Hill said he votes "on what I think is best for the country," but a candidates' views on defense spending is up there. "Sure, it's what I do for a living," he said.

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President Obama has already cut projected Pentagon spending by $487 billion over ten years and will keep actual spending flat. That's still enough, he says, to keep the military the strongest on Earth.

"We spend more on our military than the next ten countries combined -- China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, you name it -- next ten," he said during Monday night's debate.

But Gov. Mitt Romney proposes a buildup of ground forces, air forces and the Navy. He would build 15 new warships every year, compared to the president's nine, and increase defense spending by more than $2 trillion dollars over ten years, according to independent estimates.

"We have to make decisions based upon uncertainty, and that means a strong military. I will not cut a military budget" Romney said.

Monday night, Romney's claim the Navy is too small -- and the president's response -- was a clear snapshot of their differences.

"Our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917," he said.

President Obama responded: "You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed."

But what worries George Hill is the more immediate threat of automatic defense cuts in January. Unless Congress reaches a new agreement by the end of the year, cuts built into the 2011 budget deal could cost the military $500 billion.

George Hill says both sides are playing politics with defense.

"I blame them for not agreeing to agree with each other," he said, adding: "I think grown people should be able to sit down and work out compromises."

Monday night, the president dismissed the idea the automatic budget cuts could happen. But in Virginia, a swing state where the defense budget itself is a major industry, voters who track defense spending have a clear choice.

  • Wyatt Andrews
    Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.