In the first half of 2023, defense contractors and other defense sector players spent nearly $70 million lobbying the federal government. Much of this lobbying concerned the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, an annual appropriations bill funding the Pentagon and military operations. Lobbyists are legally required to report third quarter spending on Oct. 20.
The NDAA allocates a total of $876.8 billion, with $844.3 billion dedicated to the Department of Defense budget and $32.4 billion to the Department of Energy for national security programs.
One of the largest coordinated lobbying efforts regarding the NDAA was centered around the procurement of F-35 combat aircrafts, which is the most expensive U.S. military project to date. Analysts project the program will cost the federal government $1.7 trillion over its 60-year duration.
Lockheed Martin’s in-house lobbying contract cost about $6.9 million in the first two quarters of 2023. The defense contractor’s president of legislative affairs, Kristine Fauser, signed off on their lobbying disclosure and lobbied on behalf of the company in the first half of 2023.
Before working for Lockheed Martin, Fauser served as the defense and national security advisor to the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee’s ranking member, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Prior to that, she worked for eight years as a Logistics Management Specialist for Naval Sea Systems Command.
Lobbying firm theGROUP DC was a top recipient of lobbying spending by Lockheed Martin to monitor the F-35 program in 2023. During the first six months of 2023, the firm received $90,000 from Lockheed Martin to lobby the Federal Aviation Administration and 2024 Interior appropriations legislation, in addition to their work on the F-35 program.
In March 2023, theGROUP founder and chairman Arthur R. Collins made a contribution of over $25,000 to Sen.Tim Kaine (D-Va.)’s joint fundraising committee, who is a member of both the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the Budget Committee.
Lockheed Martin also hired Baker Donelson to monitor the program. James Dyer, the former staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, was the primary lobbyist for the contract in 2023, according to the firm’s lobbying disclosure.
Baker Donelson’s PAC and employees also made contributions to members of Congress in positions overseeing the defense sector in the first half of 2023, including over $10,000 to Kaine’s campaign committee and PAC.
RTX, a defense contractor formerly known as Raytheon, is another top defense lobbying spender.
During the first half of 2023, RTX focused some of its lobbying efforts on monitoring the F-35 program’s status. Pratt and Whitney, which produces the F-135 engine that is integral to the propulsion system of F-35 models, is owned by RTX.
After spending about $5.78 million on lobbying and almost $105,000 on federal political contributions in the first half of this year to members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, RTX was awarded a $306 million contract to build F-135 systems in October 2023.
Individual contributions made by employees of the Roosevelt Group in the first two quarters of 2023 included $8,800 to Kaine’s PAC and campaign committee as well as $14,500 to Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), a Senate Armed Service Committee member.
In addition to the money companies in the defense sector spent on lobbying, the sector made a total of $3 million in political contributions to Armed Services Committee members and their leadership PACs in the first two quarters of 2023. Over $2 million of these contributions came from those companies’ PACs. Individuals affiliated with defense sector companies contributed more than $940,000.
About 70% of contributions from the defense sector went to Republican members of the House, while a slimmer majority of contributions to the Senate were made to Democratic candidates’ committees. Republicans received about 63% of the total defense contributions overall, including contributions to members of both chambers.
General Dynamics contributed the highest amount of money to members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. House Armed Services Committee ranking member, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), received $20,000 of the over $205,000 that General Dynamics contributed to members of those committees.
Not only is Smith the most prominent recipient of contributions from General Dynamics, his former chief of staff currently serves as the company’s director of government relations after joining General Dynamics one month after her departure from Smith’s office in May 2022.
In January 2023, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. will provide 31 General Dynamics-produced M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine Armed forces which began to arrive in September. Smith was a vocal proponent of the aid.
Smith also oversaw the inclusion of funding for a program to develop a new Abrams tank with General Dynamics, rather than moving forward with an upgrade of the existing model.
Tech company and defense contractor L3Harris Technologies made the highest concentrated contributions to a single candidate in the Armed Services Committees, giving over $73,000 to House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers’ (R-Ala.) campaign.
Rogers received the most defense sector contributions of any member of the committee in the first half of 2023 — over $285,200.
In a press release regarding the passage of the NDAA in the House, Rogers highlighted a focus on “investing in a stronger missile defense and modernizing our nuclear deterrent.” Since their acquisition of propulsion engine manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne in July 2023, L3Harris has become a key player in nuclear deterrence contracting.
Rogers’ markup of the House version of the NDAA included multiple items pertaining to nuclear defense, including updates to the Trident ballistic missile program. In September, L3Harris Technologies received a $36.6 million contract modification to support the Trident system.
Members of the House Armed Services Committee received about $36,300 on average from the defense sector in the first half of 2023, while senators on the Armed Services Committee received an average of $36,000.
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) received the second highest amount of defense sector contributions in the House Armed Services Committee. Wittman’s biggest contributor was energy and defense contractor General Atomics, which contributed about $24,600 to his campaign.
Kaine and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) were the two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee with the most political contributions from the defense sector. Military shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls was the primary defense contributor of both Kaine and Wicker’s campaigns.
Wicker wrote in a press release that the NDAA “would secure a major boost for Navy shipbuilding programming by rejecting President Biden’s inadequate plans for the fleet.” Kaine wrote in a separate release that he advocated for a specific measure in the act to continue funding the production of LPD-33 transport docks, manufactured by Huntington Ingalls.
Kaine also mentioned his efforts to further support the Australia-U.K.-U.S. defense agreement (AUKUS) by providing more Virginia-class submarines, which are built at Huntington Ingalls’ shipyards in Newport News, Virginia.
A separate allocation of over $590 million was made in the NDAA for military construction in Kaine’s home state, including nearly $345 million dedicated to the world’s largest naval base in Norfolk, Virginia.
The NDAA passed both chambers of Congress and will go through a formal conference process in which members of the House and Senate will reconcile and send it to the president. This process has been prolonged by the ongoing search for a Speaker of the House.
Senior Researcher Dan Auble contributed to this report.