Defense dollars still flowing -- for now
Mar 17, 2013 (Orlando Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
For all the angst generated by talk of the potentially catastrophic effect of newly imposed deficit-reduction cuts in federal spending, there's little sign of an ebbing in the Pentagon's awarding of contracts, at least so far.
The U.S. Department of Defense deal pipeline continues to flow with money -- by some estimates as much as $1 billion a day -- and Central Florida continues to benefit.
In the past 30 days, the U.S. military has doled out more than $120 million in contracts involving work to be done entirely or in part in Metro Orlando, according to the Defense Department's latest reports.
Not surprisingly, Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Central Florida operations led the pack, receiving deals worth about $100 million -- and that doesn't include a $253 million foreign-military deal arranged through the Air Force to provide training systems for Saudi Arabia's F-15SA fighter-jet fleet.
Critics of current military spending say threats to the U.S. defense industry from the government's "sequester" budget cuts have been overstated by industry lobbyists. Defense budgets have always declined after a war -- and in this case, the U.S. is backing off from two long wars. Besides, big defense contractors have hundreds of billions of dollars in backlog orders to get them through this period, they say.
Chainsaw budget surgery
Proponents of the current defense budget argue that the "blind-eye" nature of the sequester's across-the-board cuts may irreparably damage military readiness. One top industry executive said it was akin to performing surgery with a chainsaw.
But in the meantime, the armed forces continue to buy plenty of military hardware.
On March 5, the Air Force awarded a $72.2 million pilot-training contract to Lockheed's aeronautical systems division, prime contractor for the F-35 stealth fighter jet. Lockheed's Orlando training-systems unit will perform about 10 percent of the work.
On March 8, Lockheed Training in Orlando received a $28.3 million contract through the Army's Orlando-based training-simulation agency to provide live-fire-range upgrades for Saudia Arabia's national guard.
Lockheed Training also received a $6.6 million contract from the Navy on Feb. 22 to provide automated equipment controls for the Navy's DDG-51 destroyer fleet. Lockheed's Missiles & Fire Control Orlando unit received a $6.6 million technical-support-and-services contract on March 8 for the Apache helicopter's Arrowhead advanced weapons-targeting and navigation system.
Small contractors win
A handful of other local military contractors also received new work during the past month:
-- Sanford-based Omega Medical Imaging Inc. received a troop-support deal potentially worth more than $14 million to provide radiology sysrtems and other medical equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency in Philadelphia. The work represents a fourth-year option on an existing contract. The equipment will supply medical units in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and federal civilian agencies.
-- Winter Park-based Simetri Inc. won a $700,000 research-and-development contract from the U.S. Army Research Lab to build a central database of virtual-reality scenarios for training combat medics. The project calls for Simietri to design a standardized, interactive database of scenarios that can be used on all training devices, including human-patient simulators and desktop applications.
-- ZelTech Training Solutions LLC of Orlando was awarded a contract from the Army's training-simulation agency to produce a Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System for Armenia. The laser-based-weapons training contract was ZelTech's first foreign-military sale. Financial terms were not disclosed.
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