Editor’s note: Happy days are hardly here again in Washington

March 10, 2013

Last Tuesday, I spent the better part of an afternoon going through the quarterly filings of the major government contractors to see what they had to say about sequestration.

The exercise felt other-worldly in a way, given all the hyperbole coming from the television set in my office as the Dow Jones industrial average hit a new record high. Most of the big defense stocks were up for the session.

But happy days are hardly here in Washington, based on what I read.

The language describing the consequences of the automatic budget cuts pulled few punches.

This is what Bethesda’s Lockheed Martin had to say: “We expect that sequestration, or other budgetary cuts in lieu of sequestration, would have a material effect on our corporation.”

And by “material,” the contracting giant means big enough to matter.

Fall Church’s Northrop Grumman talked about the impact on the bottom line. “There are many variables in how the law could be implemented that make it difficult to determine specific impacts; however, we expect that sequestration, as currently provided for under the Budget Control Act, would result in lower revenues, profits and cash flows for our company. Such circumstances may also result in an impairment of our goodwill.”

In other words, the company won’t be worth as much as it once was.

“We have already begun to see our federal government customers becoming more cautious with contract awards and spending and we expect this behavior to continue until the uncertainties are resolved,” CACI International warned.

Some declined to speculate.ManTech International tried to turn the budget turmoil into a positive. “We believe this setting may provide opportunities for price competitive providers such as ManTech.”

That’s the strategy, at least. Revenue for the Fairfax contractor fell 10 percent in 2012 compared with 2011. Profitwas down 28.7 percent.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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