According to a report published last week in U.S. News & World Report, repeated in yesterday's issue of The Wall Street Journal, repeated in today's edition of, (and round and round we go), Congress is poised to countermand a Pentagon decision to phase out the U-2 spy plane in favor of the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle.

U.S. News takes at face value legislators' argument that the U-2 has capabilities unmatched by  either the Global Hawk or U.S. spy satellites. Unlike the former, the U-2 flies at such high altitudes (70,000 feet, give or take), that the spy-ees can't hear the spy-ers above them. Unlike satellites, which Newton assures us must generally stick to their orbits, the U-2 can pick a spot and hang out there watching whatever needs watching.

But could there be another reason why legislators are substituting their judgment for that of the generals? Call me a cynic, but I can't help but notice that Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) builds and backs the Global Hawk, while Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) is the company behind the U-2. Methinks me smells a lobbyist.

Foolish takeaway: In investing, don't assume that the best product, the cheapest, or the most technoligically advanced will win the day. We invest in the real world, where there be lobbyists afoot.

For more on the role that lobbying plays in the world of defense and security contracting, don't miss the Fool's exclusive interview with American Science & Engineering (NASDAQ:ASEI) CFO Ken Galaznik. Free access is available by taking a free trial of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers investing newsletter.

American Science & Engineering is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.