Northrop Grumman Corp. received a $114.2 million order for the last three Global Hawk Block 30 drones that the Pentagon initially tried to cancel.
The Department of Defense announced the deal today.
Northrop, based in Falls Church, Virginia, tripled its political giving and increased spending on lobbying as it fended off efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration to cut spending for the drones.
The Global Hawk can stay airborne for 32 hours and has been used to support U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The unmanned aircraft flies intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over large areas.
The administration had said the Block 30 version was unaffordable in an era of budget cuts, and that the manned U-2 planes could accomplish the same missions.
“The Air Force continues to support the U-2 as the platform of choice,” Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning said Sept. 16 at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference at National Harbor in Maryland.
Congress disagreed, including funding for purchasing the three Global Hawk drones in the Defense Department budget and pressuring Pentagon officials to buy the planes.
“The Global Hawk spans much more territory, it’s more efficient, it’s unmanned and it’s the technology of the future,” said Representative Jim Moran of Virginia, 68, a senior Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee whose district includes Northrop’s headquarters. “The U-2 has been around since I was a kid. Any system that is as old as I am needs to be replaced.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, a California Republican, joined Moran in complaining to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that the Air Force was delaying the congressionally mandated drone purchases.
“The Air Force has continued to ignore clear congressional intent,” the lawmakers wrote May 13.
Randy Belote, a Northrop spokesman, said the company was “pleased” with the decision. He said the company remains committed to “providing operational value for the war-fighter.”
During the first six months of 2013, Northrop Grumman’s political action committee made $1.3 million in federal campaign donations. Among all corporate PACs, that was second only to Honeywell International Inc. and three times the $372,000 contributed by Northrop’s PAC during the same period two years ago, Federal Election Commission reports show.
Northrop, the fifth-biggest Pentagon contractor, spent $9.3 million to lobby from January to June, up from $8.6 million in the first half of 2012, according to U.S. Senate filings.