War, they say, is an ugly business. But the business of selling war machines isn't winning any beauty contests either.
Historically, the business of defense contracting has been an amiable affair, marked by good-natured arguments between rivals who were willing to work together when necessary. A few years back, General Dynamics
These companies argue over who gets pride of place as "prime contractor" on a project, but once that's decided, former rivals tend to fall in line. Some call these relationships incestuous, but to investors, it's just good business. So long as the money flows freely, there's plenty for everyone.
But what happens when the money spigot gets turned off?
It's business, and it's personal
A couple weeks back, I warned Fools about this scenario. As the Pentagon cuts defense spending, PR battle lines will harden, and companies will play hardball for their "fair share" of the loot. Now we're seeing it happen. A few days back, an ad placed by United Technologies
For those not in the know, United Technologies is taking aim at General Electric
Incidentally, United Tech is also trying to work its way into the good graces of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who first raised the "$2.9 billion" figure last month. According to Gates, programs like the GE engine are eating up funds that could be better used to buy combat equipment for troops in the field -- equipment like Black Hawk helicopters manufactured by United Technologies' Sikorsky subsidiary.
As flanking tactics go, this was neatly executed. But it wasn't pretty. And it's going to get uglier.