Given the costs, some industry analysts suspect that Congress will grow increasingly content this year with the cheaper Arleigh Burke class destroyers already in production.

"I think there are too many programs in general for the amount of money that's there," said Cai von Rumohr, a defense industry analyst for SG Cowan Securities Corp.

"There was a slowdown after the Persian Gulf war, and the result is that now all these programs are colliding at once.

"Whether it's the JSF, or the V-22 Osprey or DD-21 the Zumwalt destroyer, there's an enormous likelihood of something slipping this year."

Because a blueprint of the 2002 budget must be submitted to Congress by February, not long after Inauguration Day, the new president won't really craft his own budget until early next year when work on the 2003 budget begins.

But what they can't do with the budget, presidents have often done with policy - such as when President Jimmy Carter canceled the B-1 bomber program in 1976.

Bush has already said that he considers the proposed production of 3,000 Joint Strike Fighters to be "a bit much."

The future of the defense industry is often pegged to the Joint Strike Fighter, if only because its $200 billion pricetag would be the largest ever. And the future of that new fighter has often been questioned, mostly because the concept of one weapon satisfying the disparate needs of the Navy, the Marines and the Air Force is a foreign one.

But skepticism has mounted as the Pentagon inches closer to selecting either Lockheed Martin or Boeing to build its new fighter plane.

"My doubts have given way to misgivings and my misgivings have given way to actual fear," said Aboulafia. "If the JSF is canceled, at least we'll know what we have for the future ... .

"But the bad news is that you lose all hope for the kind of robust growth that the industry had anticipated."