Get ready for an eventful 2011

By John Keller
Editor in Chief

We're on the doorstep of what promises to be an interesting 2011 for the aerospace and defense electronics industry. Prospects for increases in defense spending are bleak, Congress and the Obama Administration are girding for a year of epic battle, and aerospace and defense companies are repositioning themselves for some of the few remaining lucrative pockets of technology development-most notably wearable infantry electronics and sensor payloads for unmanned vehicles.

Oh, and something else. The PennWell Aerospace & Defense Media Group, which consists of Military & Aerospace Electronics and its sister electronic publication Avionics Intelligence, has a new publisher, and we are setting a course for dramatic improvements in the depth and breadth of our online content, while redefining our flagship Military & Aerospace Electronics print magazine to be of vital use in the year of turmoil ahead.

President Obama will submit his first real budget request for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) within the next few months-the last DOD request for fiscal 2011 essentially was the last from former President George W. Bush. Obama's 2012 DOD request will provide the first clear indications of where his administration expects to take U.S. military power and technology over the long term.

Yet even before Obama is able to submit his request, a Republican majority in the U.S. House of representatives will take control of the lower house, and the Democrat majority in the Senate will have been markedly diminished, setting the stage for a long string of conflicts between legislative and executive priorities for U.S. military spending.

A Republican majority in the House, however, likely does not mean a reprieve for growth in the defense budget-far from it.

The freshmen Republicans who will take their seats in the House of Representatives next month are not the kinds of neo-conservatives who have been some of the most vocal and influential champions of growth in defense spending. This new breed of Republican representative, on the contrary, springs from what we know as the Tea Party, and these folks are serious fiscal conservatives-in defense spending, as well as most other federal spending.

The Pentagon has seen a decade of budget growth, and that's about to change. The political forces gathering to trim back the DOD budget, along with overall federal spending, are formidable. Unlike what we've seen in recent years, these forces will exert pressure from the right and left of the political spectrum for defense budget cutbacks.

The left, personified by President Obama and his administration, will press for defense reductions on principle, while the right, personified by the incoming Tea Party Republicans, will push hard for fiscal federal spending restraint across the board; defense spending is unlikely to be spared.

Proponents of growth in the defense budget will have few seats at the table this time around, and where the final numbers fall is anyone's guess. The smart bet, however, is on noticeable reductions.

Does that mean doom and gloom for our industry? Probably not. Those with the most to worry about are the prime defense contractors that are heavily invested in new programs that face elimination or cuts. Still, the military is not going away, and tight budgets present opportunities for systems upgrades and technology insertion. Purveyors of embedded computing, sensors, software, and the like should have plenty of opportunities.

Now back to our new publisher, Ernesto Burden. Look for big improvements to the online presence of Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence. We're about to move to the next level.

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