When is a bill for more than a billion dollars not really a problem? Well, when you're General Dynamics(NYSE: GD), one of the largest, and perhaps the best capitalized of all defense contractors, it's a nuisance.

General Dynamics and Boeing(NYSE: BA) said Tuesday that the Navy is demanding payment of $2.3 billion within 30 days, or the outstanding amount would be turned over to the Pentagon's collections agency. (As an aside, can you imagine how tough these collections people must be? So much so that the Pentagon turns to them to pressure debtors!) The bill, which amounts to about $1.3 billion from General Dynamics and another $1 billion from Boeing, would not be a big burden on either company -- they both have that kind of cash from the cancellation of the A-12 attack jet that never saw production.

General Dynamics called the letter "unseemly" and said it interferes with other current negotiations surrounding the payment. General Dynamics is attempting to reduce the payment through legal challenges, and offering in kind services in exchange for extinguishing the debt. General Dynamics has a case before the U.S. Appellate Courts that disputes the Navy's stance that the cancellation of the A-12 represents a default by the contractors.

Regardless of the outcome, it's important for shareholders to view this in its proper perspective. Even if the worst outcome is realized, the hit to cash flow for a company of General Dynamics' size will likely be less than 10%. Moreover, General Dynamics remains at such attractive multiples to cash flow, and this issue has been known for long enough, that such tactics in the duration of the negotiation should be viewed as pro forma.