Latest Pentagon guidance may bode well for military technology development and research

By John Keller

Posted by John Keller

I've been reading a lot lately about President Obama's new guidelines for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to help the nation's military control its costs. These guidelines, outlined in a DOD report released this month entitled Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense , emphasize Special Operations forces, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and cyber security , while signaling potential reductions in U.S. military nation-building efforts, nuclear forces , and in the number of U.S. soldiers and Marines.

Critics contend new guidelines threaten to gut U.S. defense forces, but I don't see it. In fact, the new policy might bode well for military technology developers working on applications such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; sensors; signal processing; and unmanned vehicles.

It's true the Pentagon's budget may be heading down in the next several years, but perhaps not dramatically. A worst-case scenario would force the Pentagon to trim $500 billion over the next 10 years if Congress can't find new ways of reducing defense spending. That would be a cut of about $50 billion a year out of a total annual Pentagon budget of about $670 billion. Still, I doubt such deep cuts will happen.

It's an election year, and no one in the Administration or Congress wants to appear soft on defense. Doing so would spell electoral defeat for many members of Congress, and perhaps even for Obama himself. I think those concerned will come up with an eleventh-hour deal to avoid deep cuts.

Something else to think about: Obama says he expects the Pentagon budget actually to increase at about the rate of inflation every year for the next decade. This doesn't sound like the Administration wants to make big cuts in overall military defense spending to me.

A cornerstone of the new Pentagon guidelines seems to be a gradual reduction in the number of solders and Marines in the U.S. defense force. Personnel costs are some of the biggest expenses the U.S. military faces. These costs include not only salaries, but also the costs of feeding, housing, and equipping soldiers and Marines.

The Army today has about 570,000 troops, which is up from about 482,000 before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pentagon leaders now would like to shrink the Army to about 520,000 troops, perhaps even more.

Reducing the number of soldiers and Marines would free-up a substantial amount of money. Now if Obama is sincere in his wish to maintain the current level of defense spending, then where might the savings from reducing troop levels go?

My guess is technology development and research. It seems Obama wants to maintain or enhance the nation's capability in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, as well as in cyber security and unmanned vehicles. Doing so requires constant technology development and research, and I think this is what will happen.

We won't know for sure until next month when the Pentagon releases its detailed budget request for federal fiscal year 2013. Military research and development spending has suffered for the past several years to support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that those efforts are winding down, that money can go elsewhere in the Pentagon's budget.

I'll be watching project research and development spending when the defense budget request comes out next month. I'll also be watching other technology spending to see if this is where money will be diverted.

If technology development and research spending increases next year, it will be high time. Nearly a decade of steady military operations in the Middle East have taken their toll on military forces, and it's past time to rebuild the force with the latest technologies.

This is the best opportunity we have seen in years to put more money into military technology develop and research. Let's hope those concerned don't blow the chance.

Previous Blog Posts

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

Tue Dec 17 13:15:00 CST 2013

Hacker drone story a cautionary tale about the need for unmanned vehicle data security

Tue Dec 10 09:46:00 CST 2013

Lack of money for systems upgrades threatens to maintain wind-farm radar dead spots

Tue Dec 03 10:36:00 CST 2013

Engineering support contracts indicate the Pentagon is sinking into the Mothball Strategy

Tue Nov 26 06:57:00 CST 2013

The revenge of COTS: an ageing commercial technology base complicates military supply chain

Tue Nov 19 08:53:00 CST 2013

Navy's newest destroyers evolve to fill traditional battleship roles

Tue Nov 12 11:54:00 CST 2013

International suspicions of U.S. encryption technology putting defense companies in a bind

Tue Nov 05 11:24:00 CST 2013

Defense industry left guessing as Army struggles forward with an unclear mission

Tue Oct 29 09:45:00 CDT 2013

These are tough times for the combat vehicle and vetronics industries

Tue Oct 22 04:22:00 CDT 2013

Is the government shutdown a harbinger of more ominous things to come?

Tue Oct 15 11:21:00 CDT 2013

Government shutdown reduces military contracting, increasing pressure on U.S. defense industry

Mon Oct 07 12:17:00 CDT 2013

Potential good news: has U.S. defense spending finally bottomed-out?

Tue Oct 01 13:02:00 CDT 2013

Is robotics revolution the first glimpse of a fundamental change in human evolution?

Tue Sep 24 09:46:00 CDT 2013

Obsolescent parts: are we enhancing military readiness or creating a hollow force?

Tue Sep 17 15:46:00 CDT 2013

For the high-tech warfighter, the future of electronics-laden uniforms is here

Tue Sep 10 11:26:00 CDT 2013

New generation of embedded computing thermal management in development at GE

Tue Sep 03 09:44:00 CDT 2013

Trading bus stops for credit cards: how far embedded computing has come in three decades

Tue Aug 27 10:59:00 CDT 2013

Unmanned vehicle industry stands at the doorstep of a fundamental transformation

Tue Aug 20 11:09:00 CDT 2013

AUVSI 2013, one of the biggest unmanned vehicles shows in the world, opens this week in Washington

Tue Aug 13 05:35:00 CDT 2013

The Washington Post, under Jeff Bezos, could lead the way for media in the 21st Century

Tue Aug 06 09:47:00 CDT 2013

Are costs and vulnerabilities making military leaders nervous about satellite communications?

Tue Jul 30 11:07:00 CDT 2013

Unmanned aircraft carrier that travels beneath the waves may be in the Navy's future

Tue Jul 23 05:20:00 CDT 2013

Electronic warfare programs kick into high gear with a flurry of contract activity

Tue Jul 16 08:03:00 CDT 2013

How vulnerable are U.S. Navy vessels to advanced anti-ship cruise missiles?

Tue Jul 09 07:03:00 CDT 2013

First came VHSIC, then came MIMIC, and now comes ACE to push electronics technology

Tue Jul 02 09:16:00 CDT 2013

The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

July 2015
Volume 26, Issue 7

All Access Sponsors

Download Our Apps




Connect with Us


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles