Halls were buzzing and exhibitors were happy at AFCEA West trade show: have we turned a corner?

THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 13 Feb. 2014. Well, there's good news and there's bad news. First the bad news: I'm stuck today due to the severe winter weather sweeping through the South and up the East Coast. The good news is we might be seeing something of an industry turnaround in the military electronics business, which has been on its back for months.

The AFCEA West conference and trade show in San Diego this week was far-and-away stronger than it was last year. This year the show saw reasonably crowded aisles, plenty of uniforms, happy exhibitors, and actual business interest inside the booths.

Related: Is sequestration killing aerospace and defense trade shows?

Last year we saw none of that. Inside the San Diego Convention Center AFCEA West exhibit hall last year: crickets, scowls, and aisles so empty you could shoot a cannon down them without hurting anyone.

Last year a colleague stopped me in the middle of the exhibit hall and said, "Hear that?"

"No," I replied. "I don't hear anything."

"Exactly," he said.

This year, what a turnaround!

Related: Hurricane Sandy hits trade shows, cancels flights, strands travelers along the entire East Coast

Few exhibitors and attendees I talked to were disappointed with AFCEA West this year, which is the annual West Coast trade show sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. The hall was vibrant and busy. We saw uniforms from several U.S. military services -- even the Air Force, which is rare for this typically naval-dominated show.

As for me, I'm stuck in San Diego for an extra day while I wait for that monster winter weather front to clear out of the Eastern part of the country where I live. Stuck in San Diego where it's 77 degrees, in February. Poor me; it's tough duty out here.

Related: Capital Hill budget deal could restore tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon

Meanwhile, I'm heartened at what I saw at the AFCEA West show this week. Sequestration is in the rear-view mirror, defense companies are starting to plan and seem to be emerging from a long slumber. Customers are eager to buy.

With all the dismal news we've seen in the military technology market over the past year or so, it makes me wonder ...

... maybe we've turned a corner.

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