NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The war in Afghanistan is the subject of daily fiery debate inside the White House. The central question, of course, is whether to escalate the conflict by sending more troops.
For the defense-contracting industry -- what used to be called, a generation ago, the military-industrial complex -- the prospects of escalation can only mean profit growth.
And so we
to weigh in on the controversial subject of war profits. The truck manufacturer
of the U.S. military's refocus from Iraq to Afghanistan, with its all-terrain fighting vehicle, useful in the rugged terrain of Kandahar and environs, fast-tracked into service by the Pentagon.
But there are
who have benefited from the Pentagon's missions, and plenty who stand to benefit even more if the U.S. sends more soldiers into the war zone.
In our survey, we offered up a menu of six defense contractors, including logistical-service providers and engineering firms such as
, as well traditional hardware makers, such as
The winner was Oshkosh, and it's clear why: With its $3.3 billion-plus M-ATV contract, the company has not only saved itself from financial disaster, but possibly laid the foundation for much more Pentagon business in the future. The venerable Wisconsin manufacturer garnered almost 37% of the survey's votes.
In second place was
, which makes a version of a military off-road fighting truck, the MRAP -- sibling to Oshkosh's M-ATV. The huge defense contractor took almost 20% of the vote.
Our four other contestants were tightly bunched. Engineering firm Fluor, which builds military bases in Afghanistan and just received a big Pentagon contract, received nearly 14% of the clicks.
, another services provider, came in fourth place with 11%, virtually tied with
, whose Bell Helicopter unit has been building war choppers for decades.
Rounding things out was Boeing (with 8% of the vote), a company so huge that its prospects -- unlike relatively tiny Oshkosh -- definitely do not hang on the winning of any one Pentagon award.
Written by Scott Eden in New York
Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.