It seems our industry's biggest headlines these past few months have been about looming sequestration, fiscal cliffs, future defense cuts, and other indications of gloom and doom for the aerospace and defense electronics industry.
I should know... a lot of those headlines have been ours. "As the DOD prepares itself for sequestration, communication is key," "Looming fiscal cliff threatens to strike after the presidential election," "Effects of 2013 DOD budget cuts already being felt with program cancellations," "Job losses, reduced government incomes loom as primary threats of defense sequestration," and on and on.
Yes, I know programs are being cut or eliminated altogether, defense industry employees are being laid off or fear for their jobs, defense industry consolidation is progressing at a frightening pace, and fears grow of a hollow military to rival that of the Carter Administration in the 1970s.
Make no mistake, I've been covering the defense industry closely now for 32 years-all of my professional life, in fact-and I've never seen prospects this bad for the U.S. military. With this continuing avalanche of bad news, I half-expected by now to see hand-painted signs at boarded-up defense industry headquarters throughout the nation reading: Out of Business; Plant Closing Soon; Everything Must Go; Thanks, Syracuse, for all the Memories.
Yet despite all the belt-tightening going on now and continuing for the foreseeable future, I'm noticing something funny going on.... Defense employees are still getting up and going to work in the morning, contracts are being let, solicitations issued, conferences attended, industry briefings scheduled, new products introduced, and breakthrough technologies investigated.
I know many things are different from how they used to be, and we're nowhere near seeing an end to the transformation of the U.S. defense industry, yet in many quarters some things are the same. For the defense industry, there's life in the old girl yet. Believe it or not, the more we look, the more we'll start seeing these indications of healthy industry segments, rather than an endless dark tunnel, so don't despair.
On the one hand, I've seen a noticeable reduction in defense contracts awarded and solicitations issued since federal fiscal year 2013 began back in October. Yes, companies are hurting, yet defense technology is still moving forward. Here are just a few examples that you can find details about in this issue:
- the DARPA Upward Falling Pay- loads (UFP) program to design non-lethal weapons and situational-awareness sensors that pop up on the surface seemingly without warning from the ocean's depths in the middle of enemy naval battle groups;
- the Navy's Next Generation Command and Control Processor (NGC2P)-a tactical data link communication processor that provides warfighters with critical real-time information about friendly and enemy activity during combat operations-which Northrop Grumman is upgrading under terms of a $95 million contract;
- the Air Force surveying industry for companies able to develop an unmanned marine vehicle (UMV) to support the 96th Test Wing and its ocean test range near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; and,
- the Marine Corps Mobile Electric Hybrid Power Sources (MEHPS) program to develop a non-grid-tied hybrid power system to augment traditional generators on the battlefield.
An industry that's sick doesn't undertake programs like these. There are hard times ahead, but this industry will emerge on the other end stronger than ever.
You have my word on that.