Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Will Sequestration Sink General Dynamics' Aegis Destroyer?

By Katie Spence – Apr 28, 2013 at 9:30AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

As sequestration rages on, defense contractors are suffering. Should investors be worried?

Sequestration's in full swing, and it's putting a kink in the Navy's ship-buying plans. Before sequestration took effect, the Navy signed a multi-year procurement contract, which saved money by buying ships in bulk. Now, however, the defense budget has been cut, and that contract's in jeopardy. This is bad news for defense contractors on the DDG 51 Aegis Destroyer contract and could also be bad news for investors. Here's what you need to know.

U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. 

Who builds what
Both General Dynamics' (GD 3.94%) Bath Iron Works shipbuilding company and Huntington Ingalls Industries' (HII 2.52%) Ingalls Shipbuilding build the DDG 51 Aegis Destroyer, with the Navy typically buying ships from each builder.

In a move to save money, the Navy signed a 30-year shipbuilding plan that saw the purchase of 10 Aegis Destroyers for the price of nine. It also increased the Navy's shipbuilding budget from $15 billion to almost $19 billion annually. Now, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has expressed grave concerns about funding the 30-year plan and has asked the Navy for "a scintilla of evidence" that it can be done.  

One of the reasons the Navy's costs are so astronomical is that the service also has to replace the Ohio, a nuclear-capable submarine dating to the 1980s. Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of Naval operations, has stated, "People ask me what is my No. 1 program of concern, and I will tell you it's the Ohio replacement program." Not only is the Ohio outdated, but the replacement program will also provide 70% of the United States' nuclear deterrent capabilities.  

With the price of the new subs and the need for new ships, the Navy is seeing its costs escalating, which of course conflicts with the 10-year, $500 billion cut to defense spending under sequestration . 

Will the Navy remain mission-capable?
Ships aren't the only area where the Navy is seeing cuts; the service was also planning on purchasing one P-8A maritime surveillance plane from Boeing (BA), one E-2D Hawkeye battle management aircraft and two unmanned Fire Scout helicopters from Northrop Grumman (NOC 3.27%), and one F-35C carrier fighter from Lockheed Martin (LMT 3.48%) -- all of which face being cut.  

Clearly, this is all bad news for defense contractors. It's also bad news for the Navy, as it relies on these systems to remain mission-ready.

What now?
What'll happen to the Aegis Destroyer contract remains to be seen, but it's not looking great. If it does get cut, General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls could see their stocks suffer. On the other hand, that might end up being a great time to load up on defense stocks at a discounted rate. Yes, sequestration is hurting defense, and contracts are being cut, but as I've said before, defense contractors are essential to the military. Consequently, while defense contractors may be hampered in the short term, in the long term I'm not too worried.

Fool contributor Katie Spence owns shares of Northrop Grumman. Follow her on Twitter: @TMFKSpenceThe Motley Fool owns shares of General Dynamics, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

The Boeing Company Stock Quote
The Boeing Company
$126.05 (%)
Lockheed Martin Corporation Stock Quote
Lockheed Martin Corporation
$399.74 (3.48%) $13.45
Northrop Grumman Corporation Stock Quote
Northrop Grumman Corporation
$485.71 (3.27%) $15.39
General Dynamics Corporation Stock Quote
General Dynamics Corporation
$220.53 (3.94%) $8.36
Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. Stock Quote
Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc.
$227.08 (2.52%) $5.58

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 10/04/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.