As cuts to the defense industry’s major breadwinners are proposed in Congress, it may be time for a shift in focus. Traditionally, large projects like the Navy’s destroyers and the Air Force’s fighter jets have kept those companies in development and production round the clock, but with an administration eager to trim the defense budget, it is not difficult to circumspect that such projects will soon lose their luster. Too keep up with this trend, the defense industry needs to do some soul-searching and figure out what their future holds.
Luckily, there are some relatively unexplored avenues they can turn to. The military is going through its own state of transformation and is slowly broadening their horizons, appropriately into the area of counterinsurgency. Understandably, they require new, unique tools to succeed in this endeavor. Though the previous large, showy projects have formerly brought in the big bucks quickly, the military may now need something entirely different. This, combined with the looming budget cuts may result in a simultaneous defense industry transformation as well.
Should the defense industry now turn its attention more closely to developing innovative tools required for soldiers on the ground in counterinsurgency, it may find that the budget cuts currently proposed would not be as disastrous as currently considered. We can be reasonably confident that destroyer and aircraft carriers will still be built and that fighter jets will still need updates, and therefore that sector of their market will remain steady. To fill the gaps that some cuts may leave, however, work tuned towards this new COIN market will prove essential and, most likely, extremely profitable.
Such mainstream devices (like more precise thermal night vision and lighter body armor, which are already in development in small companies), if made to the right standards of excellence and provided at the price point possibly from the large providers in the industry, would be eagerly snatched by the military, would make our soldiers more efficient and safer, and would help the large-scale defense industry more smoothly transition into working with a tighter DoD budget. These are areas the industry needs to look into to protect itself from the pending restrictions on its larger projects.