Special Report

America’s 15 Biggest Defense Contractors

When most of us think of federal defense spending we envision fighter planes, tanks, battleships, and aircraft carriers. While some of the budget certainly goes to buy military armaments, in reality the majority is spent on salaries and benefits of military personnel, the Veterans Administration, and many other, more mundane, expenditures.

The House Appropriations Committee has already approved a $674.6 billion Department of Defense spending bill for fiscal year 2019. But as it remains under discussion in the Senate, it could change.

The approved budget is lower than the fiscal 2018 (October 2017 through September 2018) budget of $700 billion, which was approved last December and was $94 billion higher than the previous year budget. The 2019 budget is also lower than the proposed White House budget of $716 billion, which is more than half of all 2019 U.S. discretionary spending.
In addition to military warfighting equipment like tanks and ships and airplanes, the 2019 defense budget also includes a 2.6% pay hike for service personnel; an increase of 16,000 defense personnel to a total of 2.15 million; and $199 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The military acquisition budget totals $236.7 billion and includes $88.9 billion for overseas contingency operations (OCO) and global war on terror (GWOT) requirements. The House Appropriations Committee has approved $133 billion in equipment procurement for the 2019 fiscal year.

These $133 billion represent about 20% of the $674.6 billion defense budget, and about 3% of the total federal budget of $4.4 trillion, which includes mandatory spending of $2.74 trillion primarily on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The discretionary portion of the federal budget totals $1.3 trillion, and the rest ($363 billion) goes to pay interest on the national debt.

Under the House bill the U.S. Navy receives $22.7 billion to procure 12 ships. These include three guided missile destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, three littoral combat ships (LCS), one expeditionary sea base, two fleet oilers, and one towing, rescue, and salvage ship.

The budget for the purchase of 93 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters is $9.4 billion, and 24 F/A-18E/F will cost $1.9 billion. The Army gets $1.5 billion to upgrade 85 of its Abrams tanks.

The House bill also includes $34.4 billion for the Defense Department’s health program, including $364 million for cancer research, $125 million for research on psychological health and traumatic brain injuries, and $318 million directed at preventing and responding to sexual assault.

The entire Defense Department budget is a vast and specialized labyrinth that supports hundreds of thousands of civilian jobs in addition to the 1.34 million active duty personnel and 818,000 National Guard and Reserve troops. Here are the top 15 U.S. federal government and defense contractors ranked in order of federal funds obligated to each in 2017.

For company data, 24/7 Wall St. used annual reports filed for fiscal year 2017. Ranking of the companies is based on defense funding obligated in fiscal year 2017 as reported by the Federal Procurement Data System, a branch of the General Services Administration. Obligated funds in 2017 totaled $282.63 billion spread across 100 companies and included federal government purchases of everything from aircraft carriers to paper clips. Market cap is reported as of June 27, 2018.

Click here to see America’s 15 biggest defense contractors.

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