WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates will disregard possible job losses when deciding the fate of weapons programs and systems in the Pentagon's 2010 budget, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
"It's not the responsibility of this building to worry about the economic impact of budgetary decisions," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.
"It's the responsibility of the secretary and this building to provide recommendation to the president about what's in the best interest of our national security. And that's the advice he will give," Morrell said.
Some defense firms have highlighted the number of jobs they say depend on their big-ticket programs as they lobby against potential cuts in the budget for fiscal year 2010, which begins on Oct. 1 this year.
Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), for example, is running an advertising campaign which states that 95,000 jobs across the United States are linked to its advanced F-22 fighter jet.
"If there is a determination made at the White House that there needs to be greater consideration for the economic impact of individual decisions or the budget as a whole, that is their prerogative," Morrell said.
"But the secretary and his staff are charged with providing a budget that protects the American people and our interests around the world," he added.
The Obama administration has stated that the Pentagon's base budget for 2010 will be $534 billion. Now Gates is working out how that top line figure should be distributed.
He has pledged to make tough choices because the economic crisis and big cost overruns in weapons programs demand them and also to give more emphasis to irregular warfare.
Morrell said Gates had not made any decisions so far and expected to continue working on the budget until at least the first week of April.
"He does not anticipate making decisions until the very end of this process," Morrell said.
As well as the F-22, other major items believed to be under threat include the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems high-tech network of weapons systems, led by Boeing Co (BA.N).
Vulnerable Navy programs include the new DDG-1000 destroyer, built by Northrop Grumman (NOC.N) and General Dynamics Corp (GD.N); the Littoral Combat Ship program, which includes Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics; and presidential helicopters being built by Lockheed. (Reporting by Andrew Gray; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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