In Press: Talking Defense Contracting in Le Parisien

by Craig Hooper on February 24, 2023

I had a good time trading emails with Marc Chalamet, Le Parisien’s New York correspondent, about who might be profiting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Part of the discussion made it into Marc’s latest column, which you can read here.

Exploiting European suspicion of American profiteering is fertile ground for Russia’s ever-willing cadre of disinformation experts. It’s easy to point at the booming stock of American defense contractors, highlighting the sector’s expansion as it builds out some woefully ignored sectors–munitions and back-end support stuff.

Going forward, it’s going to be important for U.S. diplomats–and U.S. military contractors–to highlight how Russia’s poor gear and mismanaged invasion have both destroyed Russia’s arms industry AND created opportunities for all kinds of European arms innovators. It might also be smart for big primes (waves at Lockheed, gestures to the F-35 program) to highlight the contributions from European subcontractors and/or foreign offsets.

It also might be smart to point out that European dithering over weapons–like the German effort to slow-walk efforts to provide any Leopard tanks-not even defensive-oriented Leopard I’s-only opens opportunities to others. Folks bordering Russia want the rest of Europe to back them, and when European suppliers balk, they look elsewhere. South Korea, for example, is a major beneficiary of German recalcitrance in heavy weaponry.

But there are a lot of other European arms providers that are getting big opportunities from the Russian invasion. Turkey’s unmanned sector–after proving to be so useful early in the conflict–is getting a huge global boost, and Turkey’s shipbuilding sector is setting up to build Ukraine’s future Black Sea Fleet.

As I said (with apologies to google translate), basically, the rising tide of demand raises all boats:

“the dramatic change in security and the collapse of the reputation of Russian military equipment, have created enormous opportunities for Western defense contractors,”not just Americans, then. He adds: “Everyone wants to make sure you have enough ammunition, drones and other battlefield tools Ukraine has used so effectively to survive.”

There’s also concern that the U.S., as a natural gas exporter, is somehow reaping a profit too. I’d suggest that commentators take a moment to explain that moving America’s otherwise locked natural gas production into the global market doesn’t do great things for average U.S. citizen. I don’t think Europe understands that our crash effort to ship gas over to Europe is going to leave the US electorate facing big, permanent natural gas price increases.


In Press: Susan Collins Goes To Appropriations

by Craig Hooper on February 21, 2023

I had a great talk with the Times Record’s John Terhune about Senator Susan Collins’ new role as ranking member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee. As always–after watching Richard Shelby run the place for years–it’s interesting to see how a new Senator will craft this role to suit their individual interests.

Collins–obviously–is focused on shipbuilding and wants ship numbers to go up, but I think her primary effort going forward will be to move beyond just shipbuilding and in distinguishing the hype from investments that are really necessary. The Army, Air Force and Space Force can be just as tech-blinded as the Navy and Marine Corps. As I say in the article:

It’s like high fashion: Every season there’s going to be something new,” Hooper said of the lengthy and sometimes fraught process of designing warships. “Is it always necessary? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. The trick for our naval and political leaders like Susan Collins will be in trying to distinguish the reality from the hype.”

I think Collins is bringing in some great staff who will help her balance between the proven stuff and things that might be a tad too ambitious–they’re certainly not brand-new “babes in the woods” who can get pushed around easily. They’re going to focus on things that are proven and have real-world field/operational experience.

It’ll also be interesting to see how quickly defense contractors work to lay down a footprint in Maine. It’s a tough sell–the State’s not set up to really absorb a whole lot more economic activity. Collins will need to twist a few arms in the state to get the locals to get serious about worker training, affordable housing and worker recruitment–but if Shelby’s record in Alabama is any sign of things to come, defense contractors are going to be setting up shop wherever they can, because:

“If you are a defense contractor and you are not trying to figure out how to maximize your investments in Maine or to get a footprint in Maine, you’re not doing defense contracting,”

Anyway, this will be fascinating to watch. General Dynamics must be relieved–Bath has been kind of spinning in the wind for some time. Huntington Ingalls, however, can’t be super thrilled that somebody from Maine controls Congressional largesse.


In Forbes: Fix The Darn Hospital Ships, Already.

December 22, 2022

Everybody knows that America’s two big hospital ships are largely useless unless lashed to a pier. They’re so big that, if we had to fully staff them, we’d have trouble operating some stateside medical facilities–they are THAT big a drain on the medical community. They’re also too big to work in most ports, and, if […]

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Some Fun Coast Guard Reads In Forbes:

December 14, 2022

Over in Forbes, I’ve put up a few Coast Guard pieces–a summary of the USCG funding proposal in the NDAA, and a suggestion that the USCG toss the troubled C-27J MPA for a mix of C-130s and the V-280 Valor, the Army’s choice for a replacement of the epic Black Hawk helo. The first, looking […]

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Watch Those Little Cracks Around The Edges

December 2, 2022

In the aftermath of the holidays, a few ugly old Navy bugbears are popping up. In one week, we have a fire aboard a carrier, another leak–this time of some nasty firefighting foam–at Red Hill, a near-collision in San Diego harbor, and now news that four sailors at Norfolk’s MARMC died by suicide just this […]

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In Forbes: A Depressing Piece

November 9, 2021

It’s really frustrating to go back and read mishap reports from the last two decades. They’re all the same. They all indicate the same general problems–folks that take too many risks, don’t know their equipment, and fail to institute normal procedures. In essence, they’re basically picking and choosing what rules to follow. The Officer Corps […]

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In Forbes: It’s Time For The Navy To Start Talking About USS Connecticut’s Future

November 3, 2021

Not to be a downer, but the Navy has, in the space of a little less than a year, probably lost a second multi-billion dollar frontline asset. First the Bonhomme Richard, and now, possibly, the USS Connecticut. The last time a sub publicly suffered a controlled flight into terrain was in 2005, and the ONLY […]

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In Forbes: US-French Collaboration on Mid-Sized Carrier Design?

October 24, 2021

Over on Forbes, I’m banging away at the opportunity Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron have this week to deepen an ongoing Franco-US maritime relationship at the G-20 meetings. I have long extolled the strategic value of France’s strategically-useful maritime holdings, and, as we are already working together on maritime security and carrier integration, we should […]

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In Forbes: An Irked Senator Roger Wicker Goes “On Record” Over The Coast Guard

September 17, 2021

Mississippi’s Senior Senator, Roger Wicker, has been pushing for two things–a simple, full accounting of Coast Guard needs as well as full funding for the Coast Guard. And he’s gotten none of them. As you can tell from his comments, in the article here, the Senator is fed up. That’s good. Maybe some righteous indignation […]

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In Forbes: Mike Gallagher’s Great Lakes Push is a Breaker Too Far

September 13, 2021

If you want to know about defense journalism and the state of the Coast Guard in relation to the rest of the Uniformed Services, just look at the latest HASC markup. Defense media got the topline messages–that the HASC had grown Biden’s defense budget by $25 billion, and that the Navy got several ships. They […]

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