Category Archives: Technology

Five Takeaways From This Year’s Top 100

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DEFENSE NEWSBy Byron Callan

NOTEWORTHY ABOUT THIS YEARS LIST: 1. Some prominent suppliers are missing. 2. Defense News added some more services contractors. 3. For all the interest defense establishments have in fostering innovation and new ideas, no new startup in recent years has made it into the Top 100. 4. Not all contractors increased sales in 2020 compared to 2019. 5. Consolidation has been an enduring theme and continues to reshape the sector.”

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“This year’s Defense News Top 100 list includes a few non-surprises.

Lockheed Martin remained the largest contractor, which has been the case since the annual list was published in 2000. Consolidation resulted in movement among contractors, with Raytheon Technologies knocking Boeing off its No. 2 position. Finally, U.S. and Chinese firms dominate the Top 10, reflecting the size of those governments’ respective defense budgets.

But here’s what I found noteworthy about this year’s list:

1. Some prominent suppliers are missing. Unfortunately, all contractors don’t respond to the Defense News survey, notably General Atomics and SpaceX, as well as some suppliers that would appear to clear the lowest-ranking sales figure on the list. Triumph Group is one example. Some of the firms taken private have also dropped from the Top 100, notably Cobham, which was purchased by Advent International in 2020.

For non-U.S. contractors, there also some that could show up in the Top 100, including several Russian and Chinese contractors, the Polish Armament Group, and possibly Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation.

2. Defense News added some more services contractors. This year’s list includes two federally funded research and development centers — Mitre and Aerospace Corporation. This raises the question, however, of where to draw the line between private, nonprofit and state-owned enterprises. Naval Group of France is included in the list, and Chinese firms are state-owned, though they may have multiple subsidiaries listed on stock markets. The U.S. Department of Defense operates logistics centers, shipyards, depots and arsenals. If government-owned shipyards compete against the private sector for ship repair work, they arguably are a market factor, too.

3. For all the interest defense establishments have in fostering innovation and new ideas, no new startup in recent years has made it into the Top 100. SpaceX could be the one, and others, such as Palantir or Turkey’s Baykar, may have a crack at this in the 2020s. But contrast defense to other high-tech or engineering sectors where new entrants are reaching scale and are shaking up the old guards. For the DoD in particular, it has not supported a new entrant that has been able to scale to a sales level that would entail inclusion in the Top 100. Doing so could well spawn significant additional capital inflows to support defense/security startups.

4. Not all contractors increased sales in 2020 compared to 2019. The total sales data from fiscal 2020 is not comparable to fiscal 2019 because there are eleven firms included in this year’s list for which there is no fiscal 2019 data. United Technologies Corporation and Raytheon Company were listed in last year’s rankings, but there were divestitures to BAE Systems with the formation of Raytheon Technologies. Still, it’s noteworthy that not all contractors increased sales in FY20 compared to FY19.

5. Consolidation has been an enduring theme and continues to reshape the sector. However, it remains to be seen how the Biden administration will assess further consolidation in defense. The Top 100 suggests a fragmented market, but that’s far from the case in some segments where a handful of suppliers or primes exist. The services sector, however, is an exception, and the Top 100 suggests further consolidation is probable.”

https://www.defensenews.com/top-100/2021/07/12/five-takeaways-from-this-years-top-100/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Byron Callan is a policy research expert at Capital Alpha Partners. He specializes in the defense and aerospace industries.

Acquisition Reform That Works & No One Has Heard Of It

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“BREAKING DEFENSE” By Eric Snelgrove

“For the last two-and-a-half years, a little known Air Force experiment in commercial acquisition has achieved astonishing results.

The program, known as “Open Topic”, is at a turning point. Will the other services – with their combined $1.8 billion annual small business innovation research budget – embrace the changes it has proven actually work.”

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“Congress and the new Pentagon leadership must act now and expand the program to the Army and Navy, and the defense agencies. Scaling the program up will not cure all the department’s innovation woes but it will send an important message to our next generation of entrepreneurs that the Pentagon really is open for business.

What is the program? In 2018, the Air Force’s then-newly established AFWERX organization launched “Open Topic” under its federally mandated Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The SBIR program began in 1982 with the purpose of providing research funds to small businesses to stimulate technological innovation, meet federal research and development needs, and increase private-sector commercialization.

Over the last 30 years, the SBIR program, which advertises itself as “America’s Seed Fund”, has provided nearly $50 billion to small businesses across the country.  However, there is growing concern that while still useful, the program has stagnated and is not attracting the type of high-growth emerging technology companies necessary to compete against upstart Chinese rivals.

This is because the SBIR program now relies on the creativity of DoD and the services to generate the requirements – and only those specific research topics that make it through their internal bureaucracies become eligible for small business to apply their technologies against.
To address these concerns, a small group of pioneering Airmen experimented with a new approach.

Rather than relying solely on research ideas generated from within the upper echelon of the Air Force, AFWERX provides “Open Topic” opportunities to allow small firms and entrepreneurs to propose any idea or technology that may have an Air Force application. They hypothesized that they might well discover new technologies by letting commercial industry and innovative startups do what they do best – innovate new technology solutions and original applications. While recognizing the need for requirements that meet a specific defense need, these Open Topics provided a new approach to engage a broader cross-section of the innovation ecosystem. Over the last two years, the Air Force has awarded more than 2,200 contracts under the Open Topic program.

The results have been stunning, attracting a new type of company into the program – one that is, on average, almost 10 years younger, twice as small, and less likely to have previously worked with the Department of Defense than other applicants.  Even more astounding, the data showed that small firms selected for an Open Topic award were more likely to receive follow-on private investment, more likely to receive non-SBIR defense contracts after award, and more likely to be granted future patents — indicating their potential for continued invention and commercialization.

In short, this new batch of companies were more effective at achieving the goals of the federally mandated SBIR program. And these companies weren’t just more successful – they were different and more diverse. They were less likely to have previously received an SBIR award, more geographically diverse, and more likely to hail from one of the country’s emerging innovation hubs.

Outside of the immediate defense application and economic benefit, the Open Topic initiative addresses some of the Pentagon’s major innovation deficits. The program was able to overcome the cultural resistance and innovation obstructionists inside the Pentagon that prefer large incumbents, a rigid requirements process and usually suffer a severe case of not-invented-here syndrome.  We’ve heard in numerous congressional hearings and from countless expert panels that the DoD needs to be more innovative – oftentimes without providing concrete ideas on how to make that a reality – here is a clear opportunity for Congress to ensure this experiment thrives amid the Pentagon’s ongoing leadership shuffle.”

https://breakingdefense.com/2021/06/acquisition-reform-that-works-no-one-has-heard-of/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Snelgrove_thumb.jpg

Eric Snelgrove is a former professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee and principal staff co-author of the Future of Defense Task Force report.  He is a member of the advisory board of the Common Mission Project, a non-profit dedicated to creating vibrant and diverse ecosystems where government, academia, and industry build partnerships around urgent challenges facing our nation.

NASA Small Business Mentor-Protégé Program Offers Proven Model For National Defense Consideration

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“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE” By Shaliza Tolliver

By exposing smaller institutions and businesses, accompanied by the motivated people molded and produced by them, to opportunities like the ones provided by the [NASA] mentorship program, U.S. national security acquisition programs could be both revolutionized and revitalized tapping into all our talent pools and domestic resources.

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“Since 1958, NASA has been at the forefront of exploration. Its achievements in science and engineering helped America win the Cold War and provide the foundation of today’s connected society. Today, its mentor-protégé program is showing similar innovation.

The program’s intent is to “incentivize NASA prime contractors to assist small, disadvantaged business concerns, historically Black colleges and universities, minority institutions, and women-owned small business.”

Last year, the Boeing Co., a major NASA prime contractor, and Southern University and A&M College at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, signed an 18-month mentor-protégé partnership to work together on NASA’s Space Launch System. Boeing is one of the largest primes to participate in NASA’s mentor-protégé program.

“Ask professionals across trade industries about the benefits of allying veteran, large companies with energetic startups, and they’re likely to praise the marriage of proven business acumen, fresh perspectives and bleeding-edge technological capabilities,” says Lee Mohon, formerly of ASRC Federal, an aerospace and defense company. According to NASA, it is the only federal agency with a mentor-protégé program targeted at historically Black colleges and universities.

These partnerships aim to solve some of America’s most significant national security issues.

“America is at a crossroads,” said retired Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, president and CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association.

“The industrial base is facing multiple headwinds,” he noted. “Skilled, cleared workforce shortages remain a challenge,” and “increased regulatory burdens and barriers to new entrants continues to be a barrier,” he said.

The supply chain is one example of a security concern since some niche components needed for space flight are no longer manufactured domestically. This is especially concerning in the new age of great power competition, where supply chains are becoming an emerging area of concern.

Ellen Lord, the former undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said the “silver lining” of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it encouraged U.S. businesses to bring their supply chains back to the United States. Many of America’s supply chain vulnerabilities are due to its dependence on foreign nations — China in particular. The pandemic highlighted just how much even something like the spread of a virus touches the defense industry.

The Pentagon’s industrial policy office suggested in the “2020 Industrial Capabilities Report” that qualifying new suppliers and investing in new technology to acquire domestic sources is a national priority. However, a possible model for the solution has already presented itself — mentor-protégé programs — which in addition to NASA, is also a tool for the Defense Department.

For some, NASA seemingly has nothing to do with national security. However, one cannot fully understand the story of the development of the Space Shuttle until “the national defense context in which it was conceived, developed and initially deployed” is considered, wrote the editors of Wings in Orbit: Scientific and Engineering Legacies of the Space Shuttle.

Southern University and NASA have enjoyed a long relationship and show just how initiatives like the mentor-protégé program can and have helped push the United States forward. Morgan Watson — a Southern University engineering faculty member and a former NASA engineer — is proof of that. After graduating in 1964, Watson helped integrate the Marshall Space Flight Center. He went on to become a part of the mission that sent the first man to the Moon.

Patrick Mensah, associate dean of research and graduate programs in Southern University’s College of Sciences and Engineering, said it was opportunities like this that led to Southern being the first historically Black college or university to enter into an agreement with Boeing as a member of NASA’s mentor-protégé program.

While national security is not the primary focus of NASA’s mentor-protégé program or Boeing’s agreement with Southern University, the ramifications of making such programs a part of national security can be far-reaching.

NASA-sponsored mentor-protégé partnerships between entities such as Boeing and Southern University could be one solution to sourcing and mobilizing the workforce needed to develop the next generation of hardware, software and services required by the U.S. military.

They could also provide an opportunity to wean the United States from its dependence on international supply chains — strengthening national security while boosting support for small businesses and the American workforce.”

https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2021/3/2/nasas-mentoring-program-can-benefit-defense

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Shaliza Tolliver is a junior fellow at NDIA.

Global Defense Company Performance 2020

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(Martin Barraud/Getty Images)

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“The primary story in the defense industry has been one of relentless growth. A decade ago, 15 companies had $5 billion in defense revenue. Today, we know of at least 24 companies that reach the same threshold.

Six of the 10 largest U.S. defense companies had revenues jump by 6 percent or more — a total of about $11 billion — from fiscal 2019. And all seven Chinese firms on the list grew during the last year as well.”

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“The coronavirus pandemic is not yet over — despite our most optimistic thinking — and this year’s Defense News Top 100 list offers hints of how the broader international defense market has coped.

The answer appears to be that national security firms have fared well. Very well.

See the 2021 Top 100 list here!

The pandemic has shown — or maybe exposed — a workforce in which everyone is always online, always connected and, during the last 16 months, always on the job. That’s also true of the national security community. During this era of gray zone conflict, information warfare and cyberattacks, it’s often felt like there has been no letting up, no pause, no time to catch a breath.

At the same time, this year’s list marks yet another significant shift in how the industry is changing. Last summer, I mentioned that the Top 100 is part art and part science but that every year we push it a bit closer to science. We succeeded in that vision for 2021.

This year’s list includes more than 20 new names. Part of that is due to mergers since last summer. For example, Raytheon Technologies — the result of a combined United Technologies Corporation and Raytheon Company — makes its debut at No. 2.

Some of those new additions are due to a more aggressive approach on our part to seek out information on defense revenues from companies around the world or from firms we either overlooked or for which we couldn’t previously find revenue figures.

As evidence, last year’s 100th company on the list had just less than $300 million in defense revenue. This year, the 100th firm has just less than $600 million.

And some of the change serves as proof of the shifting demands of modern warfare.

Among the companies that are new — or returning — to the Top 100 are the cyber firm ManTech, the space company Parsons Corporation, the satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies, sensor company FLIR Systems, and emerging technologies company Alion Science and Technology. For all the talk of a digital, net-centric battlespace, this year’s list may best reflect how industry is bending and evolving toward that future.

By next year at this time, we will know if a coronavirus could slow the defense economy down or if even a once-in-a-generation pandemic is a mere hiccup.”

https://www.defensenews.com/top-100/2021/07/12/the-list-is-here-find-out-how-global-defense-companies-performed-in-fy20/

Stability And Change – Washington Technology 2021 Top 100

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“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Nick Wakeman

Eight new companies joined the list this year. Only two new companies cracked the top 20.

But that stability belies the great amount of churn that there is under the surface. Staying within a spot or two of the same ranking from year to year requires embracing constant change.

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“The annual Washington Technology Top 100 can be looked at in several ways.

If you focus primarily on the rankings, you might think the government contracting market is stagnant. After all, only eight new companies joined the list this year.

As always, the 2021 Washington Technology Top 100 is based on analysis of data from the Federal Procurement Data System. We analyzed government fiscal year 2020 reports according to a set of more than 700 product and service codes that represent spending on IT, systems integration, professional services, telecom and other high-tech products and services.

Evidence of change is clear across the Top 100. Even the No. 1 company Leidos has never relied solely on its scale to remain in the top spot as it has for the third consecutive year and fourth out of the last five.

In the last two years, Leidos has made significant acquisitions to bolsters its space capabilities, security and cloud computing offerings, and enhance its naval engineering.

But as retiring Leidos Chief Financial Officer James Reagan explained, those deals were not about scale alone but also having the critical skills and customer relationships in market segments where Leidos could differentiate itself from competitors.

The company also spent several years preparing for large competitions by investing in business development and capture capabilities. That was a major contributing factor in winning contracts such as the $7.7 billion Navy Next Generation Network contract.

But if you want to talk about change in the Top 100, just look at No. 9 Peraton. They were ranked No. 42 last year but vaulted up the list through a pair of large acquisitions — the Northrop Grumman IT services business and Perspecta.

My expectation is that next year, they could be ranked higher as the reports into the Federal Data Procurement System become better attributed to Peraton.

Changes in the market also are evident in the Top 100. While we don’t have a lot of new companies on the rankings, the new companies are strong indicators of trends in the federal sector.

For example, No. 52 Aerojet Rocketdyne made its debut on the Top 100 this year. Its jump into the middle of the rankings indicates how much more spending and interest there is in space-related products and services.

Aerojet’s website is simply “rocket.com” and its work on human exploration, in-space power and other space-related solutions. IT and software make these solutions possible. But I doubt that Aerojet would ever consider itself an IT company.

While this is Aerojet’s first appearance on the rankings, it also might be its last. By this time next year, No. 3 Lockheed Martin will likely have closed its acquisition of Aerojet pending the regulatory process, showing that the world’s largest defense company is not sitting still either when it comes to space.

Aerojet joins No. 39 Sierra Nevada Corp. and No. 42 Viasat as other companies on the list primarily focused on space opportunities. Sierra Nevada and Viasat have been on the Top 100 for several years and were early indicators that space was becoming a growth area.

Now many on the list from No. 1 Leidos on down are deep into the space race. It’s a long list that includes the traditional defense hardware companies such as No. 2 Raytheon Technologies, No. 3 Lockheed, No. 4 General Dynamics and No. 8 Boeing.

No. 9 Peraton and No. 41 Parsons are among the many others that see space as a big part of their story as well.

They are all investing in capabilities and making acquisitions to position themselves for opportunities that range from managing payloads to enabling communications and data sharing and analytics.

Another valuable way to look at the Top 100 is the raw numbers. Those look very good for the health of the overall market.

Total prime contract obligations for the 2021 Top 100 reached more than $132 billion, making this the fifth year in a row where the aggregate value of prime contracts grew. The last time the total was this high was with the 2011 Top 100, which also hit $132 billion.

Fiscal year 2011 was followed by a five year slide driven by sequestration and other budget cuts. The market hit the bottom with the 2016 Top 100, when the aggregate number was $97 billion.

Based on those numbers, the market has completed its comeback from the low five years ago.

The question now is are we at another peak or is the next peak still ahead of us?

My prediction is that total prime contract obligations will be even higher in the 2022 Top 100. COVID response and recovery is driving increased spending but needs around national security, infrastructure, IT modernization and others also are getting dollars.

Beyond 2022? Given the deficit and the political climate, I won’t make any predictions. But grab the growth while you can.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/blogs/editors-notebook/2021/06/top-100-analysis-overview.aspx

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nick Wakeman

Nick Wakeman is Washington Technology Editor in Chief

IISS Rates U.S. Number One In Cyber Superpower

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C4ISR

The report, from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), looked to use new frameworks [seven categories] and analysis to assess 15 countries’ cyber power.

The two-year study was intended to assist decision makers by highlighting those cyber capabilities that make the greatest difference to national power. It also aimed to governments and corporations calculate strategic risk and investment.

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“As part of their work, the authors examined nation’s capabilities under seven categories:

• Strategy and doctrine

• Governance, command and control

• Cyber empowerment and dependence

*Core cyber-intelligence capability

• Cyber security and resilience

• Global leadership in cyberspace affairs

• Offensive cyber capability

The United States was the only nation that ranked in the top tier, meaning it possesses world leading strength in all categories.

Nations in the second tier have world-leading strengths in some categories. Those countries included Australia, Canada, China, France, Israel, Russia and the United Kingdom.

The third tier – which included India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, North Korea and Vietnam – possess strengths or potential strengths in some categories, though significant weaknesses in others.

The U.S. remains the most capable cyber state, the report read, largely due to significant investments and “clear political direction for the pursuit of national cyber power” since the mid-1990s. Moreover, the U.S. possesses a world class cyber intelligence capability with global reach and is amplified by integrated partnerships with other highly cyber capable states.

However, the ubiquity of cyber tools, complexity of systems and the U.S.’s digital reliance has given an edge to adversaries and unsophisticated cyber techniques aimed to subvert U.S. power and companies.

“Doctrinal shifts such as persistent engagement and defend forward are designed to redress this imbalance,” the authors wrote. “Nevertheless, the US performs strongly across all categories of the methodology and is alone in Tier One.”

U.S. allies possess strong general cybersecurity across government and industry as well as strong intelligence capabilities and cyber tools with clear political direction.

U.S. adversaries – namely Russia, China, Iran and North Korea – while capable, still lag behind top U.S. allies. However, when it comes to purely offensive capability, the report notes that Russia and China probably surpass all other nations except the U.S. Moreover, the authors note key doctrinal differences between how Russia and China view “offensive cyber” versus western countries such as the U.S.

“For both China and Russia, what the West calls ‘offensive cyber’ is just the technical component of a wider information-operations capability. It is just one means of controlling their own information space, and subverting those of their adversaries, in what they see as an ongoing conflict of ideas with the West,” the report says. “It is therefore just as much an arm of those states’ propaganda machines, and a means of creating and delivering ‘fake news’, as it is a means of penetrating an adversary’s critical infrastructure.”

As a result, Russia and China may be devoting fewer resources than the U.S. in developing offensive military cyber capabilities, specifically that are designed to take out sophisticated critical infrastructure and networks during a conflict.

The report also notes that even the most powerful nations have struggled to shape durable policy frameworks for cyberspace.

“The dynamism of the cyber environment (in technologies, economics, politics and security affairs) has forced leading countries to undertake reappraisals and revisions to key strategy documents on an almost continuous basis,” the report says. “Our research confirms that all countries are still in the early stages of coming to terms with the strategic implications of cyberspace.”

Additionally, when it comes to military transformations, the authors state while several states have moved to reform their militaries, no state has yet made a transition into well-integrated and dispersed cyber capabilities for offense or defense.

The U.S. has probably gone the furthest in this pursuit, but potential military cyber power in the 2030s has yet to be demonstrated in practice.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/cyber/2021/06/28/who-can-match-the-us-as-a-cyber-superpower-no-one/

Why Did the U.S Allow Massive Waste, Fraud and Abuse in Iraq?

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spoils-of-war

 By Ken Larson in Response to a Question  by  Gwydion Madawc Williams on Quora

 Quora Question

Two Major reasons:

1. The motives of the U.S. and International Military Industrial Complexes, USAID and other western USAID counterparts in fostering continued warfare during this period, netting billions in sales of weapons to the war fighters and massive construction and redevelopment dollars for international companies who often operated fraudulently and fostered waste, looting and lack of funds control.

It is common knowledge that many of these corporations spend more each year in lobbying costs than they pay in taxes and pass exorbitant overhead and executive pay cost on to the tax payer in sales, thus financing their operating personnel riches while remaining marginally profitable to their stockholders.

I watched this from the inside of many of these companies for 36 years. Here is my dissertation on that subject. You can read it on line at:

Here is an example of how the lobbying and behind the scenes string pulling work

2. The complete lack of cultural understanding between U.S. and Western decision makers and the middle east cultures they were trying to “Assist” by nation building.

The only real understanding that existed during the period was in the person of General Schwarzkopf who spent much of his youth in the Middle East with his father, an ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He was fascinated by the Arab culture, commanded their respect and like Eisenhower led a coalition during the Gulf War. 

He then astutely recommended no occupation of Iraq, went home and stayed out of government.

Norman, like Ike, knew the power of the MIC and he wanted no part of it.

The U.S Tax payer has funded billions in USAID and construction projects in Iraq and wasted the money due to a lack of cultural understanding, fraud and abuse. POGO documents many:

There is history repeating itself here – much like Vietnam the above two factors are deeply at play with the lack of astute learning in our government as we look back over our shoulder.

We must come to the understanding, like a recent highly respected war veteran and West Point Instructor has, that military victory is dead.

“MODERN WAR INSTITUTE AT WEST POINT”

“Victory’s been defeated; it’s time we recognized that and moved on to what we actually can accomplish.”

Frank Spinney is an expert on the MIC. He spent the same time I did on the inside of the Pentagon while I worked Industry. You may find his interviews informative.

At the risk of pounding my personal perspective drum, I have hope these remarks are of some assistance to you.

A 4th of July Question – Are We Americans Truly Independent?

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THE BRANCH UPON WHICH WE SIT


Technology has permitted marvelous advances and opportunities in communication and convenience.


It has also impacted independent thought and created concerns with respect to privacy and transparency in government. Our focus has shifted recently to sophisticated forms of government technological control that may be both legal and illegal, and are being challenged in our court systems.


Mass marketing and communications have created expectations beyond reality in venues from romance web sites to building wealth. They have also confused us about our government functions, our elected representatives and where they are taking us.


We have grown used to the convenience of viewing the world through media sound bites, opinionated, biased, news and insincere, short sighted, money driven politicians, who are financed by loosely controlled contributors and influenced by lobbying firms that spend enormous amounts of money made available by the wealthy to impact our opinions.


We have become less competitive in the global economy, as a concentration of wealth has shifted to a very few and our corporations evolve operations outside the country, taking the resulting tax relief, profits, investments and resources with them.


https://business.time.com/2012/01/27/are-companies-more-powerful-than-countries/


THE CONUNDRUM


Consider simpler times a few years past (say 50). Trust was necessary in many venues as a means of survival on a day-to-day basis. We relied on others extensively for our well-being from our local store to our banker, from the policeman to the politician. And we knew them all better, we could reach out and touch them and we were not viewing them in sound bites and web sites, nor were we being bombarded with multiple forms of input to digest about them.
Americans have very little trust in the current era. We see a negative, idealistically bound, bloated government, growing like a money- eating beast and putting generations in hock with unwarranted incursions into foreign countries and a focus on big corporations and big business.


THE CHALLENGE


The key to our true independence is in becoming involved as individuals, taking flight on wings that grow strong by exercising our intellect, our shared opinions and our participation in government. We must research a personal perspective based on our personal values and take time in the fast pace our culture demands to communicate with those we elect to government – before and after the election.


Trust is hard to establish in the modern era. We see very little true statesmanship in the good people we send to Washington, who promptly become ground up in the huge machine there in order to survive. That machine must change and the people we send to change it must share that objective with us.


HOW STRONG ARE OUR WINGS?


Communications and expectations are two vital elements in measuring trust.


To an extraordinary extent, the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine trust and the degree to which communication and expectations contribute to it. To become truly independent, we must become much more sophisticated ourselves in the manner with which we view all this input and sift it in a meaningful way to have true trust.


To a very large degree this is a personal responsibility. We must become involved, make prudent judgments and think for ourselves, then communicate our expectations to those who represent us.


If we do not, we run a high risk of tyranny and that fact is inescapable.

The Evolving Role of Digital Platforms In B2G

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“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Toby Eckhardt

“Especially for smaller to mid-size contractors, these channels offer opportunities to get in on the ground level before the marketplace becomes more expensive and digital landscape is more crowded.

As more services providers across the government industry start jumping into digital, we anticipate this state of the digital landscape will change. Early adopters will be the brands to beat in the upcoming GovCon decade.”

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“Over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed a major shift in companies moving the majority of their marketing spend to digital platforms. For the commercial and B2C world, this increase was simply an additional boost to what was already trending as a growing dominant reliance on digital tools to reach consumers where they work, live and play – digital devices.

However, in the government technology and services marketplace, where the traditional marketing formula of in-person networking, conferences and job fairs had still remained a dominant form of audience engagement prior to the pandemic, the shift was dramatic for those who jumped into digital.

Yet, overall, we find that digital platforms today remained a generally untapped area for the government marketplace especially in the procurement of new business.

The challenge is most social channels have not segmented their markets or offerings to easily accommodate B2G audience segmentation. From the perspective of the social media platform owners, this makes sense, because as an industry, government marketing spend is perhaps one of the lowest in the world.

LinkedIn is the only platform that offers government industry segmentation and programs, which is why it is such a powerful tool for recruiting.

Even though most channels do not cater to the government industry specifically, they can still be very powerful and cost effective when used correctly.

As the professional and personal arenas blur, this places an ever-growing emphasis on a digital, interconnected business landscape. Both organic and paid digital media have become a standard for channel content and reach, whether to create awareness, educate an audience, or create a direct-action result. The most frequent digital tools are search engine marketing, social media marketing and programmatic marketing.

Within the government contracting market, in order to meet request for proposal requirements, procurement teams search for organizational information such as past performance or proof of capabilities to evaluate all bidders. This is where having an effective digital strategy becomes critical, starting with your company website and disseminating through the entirety of your digital communications.

We find the most effective B2G digital programs include these elements:

  • A focused, strategic message – Businesses need to focus on cultivating a consistent brand message throughout their online sites, from website to social media channels, Apps and more. This messaging is vital because, should it make a lasting impact, it will regularly bring your brand to the top of potential customers’ and employees’ minds.

  • Content aligned to SEO strategies – As you develop your site content, ensure best practices are implemented for search engine optimization with properly formatted pages, titles, headers, and meta descriptions, as well as a responsive framework and relevant keywords embedded in respective pages. Higher search result rankings for relevant keywords coupled with strategically developed content that speaks to your audience’s needs establish credibility and, by extension, validate your offering.

  • An expanded digital footprint – Once your sites are built or updated, it’s critical to expand your organization’s digital presence. Whether establishing new social channels or repurposing existing ones, it’s essential to plan out editorial calendars that lay out the specific content, the content schedule, and the strategy behind it. The primary goal is to leverage content that contains consistent brand messaging (which was created during the website phase) and link back to relevant pages on your website. This method creates initial engagement while providing further context to supplement the brevity of social media posts. By crafting relevant and engaging content paired with strategic calls to action on every post, you start conversations that make lasting impacts with users and help spread your message, outside your existing network of connections/followers.

  • Effective organic content – Along with website development and social media, organic content is among the most potent drivers of buy-in and new business available today. Organic content is original copy and images that individuals and organizations post on their social channels. The most important content needs to be less about selling, and more about informing, educating and inspiring. And also, btw, not all about you and your organization. Audiences are quick to dismiss and even disdain social channels that are purely about directly selling. Quality organic content is a must have, and these strategies also take time to reach their true potential. Search engines require backlinks and other forms of validation to ensure that content is relevant, a proof that is built through subsequent and repetitive searches.

  • Laser focused visibility – Social media accounts need time to grow engaged followings. This is where paid media management will bolster your organic efforts and offer a distinct advantage. Paid digital media can be in various forms, including funds that boost organic content to reach greater target audiences and posts written and funded to appear in social feeds only to specifically identified audiences on that channel.

Digital platforms can keep brands top of mind during the request for information or RFP stage of a contract. They can get your message in front of key influencers or decision-makers, or they can be used to create unparalleled awareness in a target geographic market where work will be done or when reaching the general public is needed.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2021/06/18/insights-eckhardt-social-platforms.aspx

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Toby Eckhardt is CEO of Focused Image, an award-winning branding, advertising and public relations agency in the DC area that specializes in government industry and technology.

Risks In Addition To Chips In Defense Electronics Supply Chain

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(krystiannawrocki/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

“C4RISR” By Chris Peters

“While the cost of these materials and components may be a tiny portion of the assembled electronic systems, any constraints or compromises in the supply chain can halt deliveries and undermine trust in entire systems.

These kinks may be costly and stressful for manufacturers and U.S. government customers, but they could be deadly in the field.”

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“While the shortage of semiconductors has garnered intense attention lately, other risks and potential disruptions are lurking in the U.S. defense electronics supply chain. These include a dangerous reliance on foreign sources for key raw materials and components; a growing gap between the U.S. and other nations when it comes to manufacturing capabilities; and a chronic shortage of skilled workers.

Rather than wait for these problems to become acute crises, the U.S. government should take steps now to identify and deal with them. Efforts to fix these problems will require much less capital than solving the semiconductor shortage, yet they are essential to ensuring U.S. defense readiness and supply chain resiliency.

The electronics supply chain starts with the raw materials needed to make and assemble a printed circuit board, or PCB, and the many components mounted on that board. The materials range from specialized metals, plastics and glasses to resins and films. The components include resistors, capacitors, inductors, interconnects, memory, integrated circuits and more. All these items must come together in the right time and place — and in the right quantity and quality — to ensure that electronics-based systems work perfectly for years to come. And many are difficult or impossible to source from U.S. suppliers.

But since PCB manufacturers are often buried deep in the electronics supply chain, U.S. government agencies have very little visibility into where the raw materials originate and what risks they may entail.

Electronic components pose similar challenges. There are thousands of different types of connectors, and many of them cannot be bought in the U.S. This makes the Department of Defense reliant on foreign sources, including China. Capacitors also can be difficult to source in the U.S., which is one of the reasons they are the second-most counterfeited electronic component.

There are still many U.S. companies and organizations that could ramp up their output of these items with modest government investment. The government funding could take the form of a Defense Production Act Title III program to support industry modernization, or other types of federal subsidies, low- or no-interest loans, or tax incentives, including an extension of the bonus depreciation tax credit expiring in 2023.

Beyond funding, what U.S. companies need most is a clear policy direction and a commitment to more government orders from trusted suppliers.

Another problem in the defense electronics supply chain is the growing gap in advanced manufacturing capabilities. For example, as more and more computing power is packaged into smaller and smaller form factors, it is becoming more important for the “traces and spaces” on circuit boards to be tinier as well, while maintaining flawless reliability.

U.S. manufacturers generally use “subtractive” technology (i.e., masking and etching) to produce PCBs with metallic traces and spaces that are just 75 microns wide. But leading Asian and European manufacturers are using “additive” technology (i.e., similar to 3D printing) to produce traces of just 30 microns, and they’re aiming to reach just 7-15 microns within a few years.

Industry experts believe the United States is lagging at least 10 years behind other nations in developing and adopting these advanced electronics packaging capabilities. Manufacturers with thin profit margins cannot afford the research and development costs, and federal R&D funding is woefully insufficient. The R&D gap increases the likelihood of a future in which U.S.-produced chips and bare boards are shipped to other countries for packaging into advanced PCBs, and then those modules are shipped to third countries for final assembly into products. This is not the future sought by anyone who wants to rebuild the U.S. defense-industrial base.

Likewise, despite decades of talking about the skilled workforce challenge, the United States has yet to create a policy framework that aligns state and local educational offerings with industry needs. The DoD-sponsored and Purdue University-led Scalable Asymmetric Lifecycle Engagement Microelectronics Workforce Development Program is geared toward increasing the number of engineering graduates for defense technology work. But equally needed are public-private programs to train more technicians and operators for well-paying jobs that don’t require college degrees. Industry groups like IPC and SMTA have developed such programs based on input from employers, but government recognition and support could turbocharge their performance.

In an oft-told story, the French general, Hubert Lyautey, once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. “In that case,” the marshal replied, “there is no time to lose. Plant it this afternoon.”

Likewise, America’s dependence on other nations for many of the most crucial links in the defense electronics supply chain is a long-term problem that requires industry-government collaboration now on an unprecedented scale. If the DoD truly wants to rebuild that supply chain, it will require immediate and sustained attention to the entire length of that chain, not just a few links.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/opinion/2021/06/23/its-more-than-chips-the-us-has-a-dangerous-reliance-on-defense-electronics/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chris Peters is executive director at the U.S. Partnership for Assured Electronics.