The U.S. military has a reputation as a somewhat secretive organization. But in one respect at least, the Pentagon is one of the most "open" of our government agencies. Every day of the week, rain or shine, the Department of Defense tells U.S. taxpayers what contracts it's issued, to whom, and for how much -- all right out in the open on its website.
So what has the Pentagon been up to this week?
Between "base" spending levels, and supplementary spending on overseas contingency operations, the DoD is budgeted to spend about $11.8 billion a week in fiscal 2014, of which $6.2 billion goes to military hardware, infrastructure projects, and supplies, with the balance going to pay personnel. This past week, however, saw significantly less spending than you'd expect -- even given the week's holiday-shortened length. From Tuesday through Friday, the Pentagon awarded contracts worth only $1.48 billion.
And what did the generals get for their (read "our") money?
In as regimented (pun intended) an organization as the military, making sure that staff have access to only the secrets they're supposed to see while ensuring they can access all the information they need to know is no easy task. But Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) is trying to make it a little bit easier.
On Friday, the nation's largest pure-play defense contractor won a $45 million IT contract to produce, install, and maintain for the Pentagon a "General Service, Cross Domain Solution" called "Radiant Mercury." The system will regulate the exchange of data across various security domains by "sanitizing, downgrading, guarding, and transliterating formatted data between different security compartment levels." Lockheed's contract will run through at least Aug. 31, 2019, but the work required to keep the system running correctly could last even longer.
Driver's ed for helicopter pilots
Also on Friday, Bell Helicopter Textron (NYSE:TXT) won a $42 million contract to supply the U.S. Marine Corps with three flight training devices for the UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter, one more flight trainer for the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter. Spare parts, technical data, and other hardware and services are also included under the contract, with delivery due by June 2018.
Missile defense for Australia
Also on Friday (it was a very big day for defense contractors), Lockheed Martin won a second contract, this time for $35 million to pay for the purchase and installation of Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures, or LAIRCM, systems aboard Australian C-130J transport aircraft. LAIRCM, a Pentagon designation, refers to on-aircraft missile defense systems designed to first detect, and then blast with laser beams, shoulder-fired heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles known commonly as "MANPADS." At last report, several defense contractors are building these systems for the military. Lockheed's LAIRCM contract will run through Jan. 31, 2019.
Missile offense for America
Lockheed's missile defense contract followed a Wednesday award to Boeing (NYSE:BA) for offensive missile work. Specifically, Boeing received a $47 million delivery order to supply unspecified "investment material" to the U.S. Air Force for use in upgrading Intercontinental Ballistic Missile NS-50 Missile Guidance Sets. Simply put, these are the navigation computers that guide American Minuteman III nuclear missiles to their targets. First put in service in 1970, America's "MMIII" fleet, currently numbering 450 nukes, has been continually upgraded during its lifespan.
And one more thing ...
Finally, a significant award benefiting the U.S. Army: Returning from the holiday weekend Tuesday, Pentagon acquisitions specialists promptly awarded seven companies, including Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC), Exelis (UNKNOWN:XLS.DL), SAIC (UNKNOWN:SAI.DL), and Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE:BAH), a combined $150 million increase in funding for work supporting the Army Research Lab's "increased mission requirements." These seven companies are conducting research into "items and systems" that will improve the "agility" of U.S. Special Ops forces in particular, and the U.S. Army in general, when conducting "expeditionary warfare, irregular warfare, special operations, and stabilization/reconstruction operations."
The Pentagon didn't release specifics on what exactly the firms are researching, but it's a pretty big effort. This contract was the third such award that the companies have received under this project -- total funding for which has now reached $630 million.
Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Textron. 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.