The defense industry has $500 billion in pending Pentagon cuts at stake in the “fiscal cliff” talks, yet it finds itself largely sidelined in the heated debate.

Defense firms desperately want to prevent those cuts, which could cost them contracts and jobs. But in a debate focused on taxes and entitlements, they’re finding themselves on the outside looking in — with great anxiety/…/

For now, defense officials say the biggest thing they are pushing for in the lame duck — even if they face new cuts — is an end to the uncertainty that’s surrounded the Pentagon budget for more than a year.

“Nearly everything the defense industry touches will be affected, and it would happen just a few weeks from now — and we do not know whether it will,” said Todd Harrison, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

“The timing here creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty for industry,” Harrison said. “How do you plan for the fact your future sales might be cut 10 percent across all programs?”