Will the U.S. Department of Defense invest in new manned, unmanned aviation platforms?

COCOA BEACH, Fla., 17 Jan. 2012. Embedded computing experts—who have gathered to discuss industry advancements and challenges at Embedded Tech Trends 2012 held in Cocoa Beach, Fla., by VITA Technologies officials—debate myriad issues, but generally seem to agree on the much-anticipated U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) budget. “It’s a crapshoot” is the general consensus.

“I could offer a prediction, but it would be just that, a shot in the dark,” admits Rodger Hosking, vice president at Pentek Inc. of Upper Saddle River, N.J. “What scares me is that market forecast experts are calling me to find out what’s going on,” he laughs.

Clayton Tucker, North America Business Director, Military & Aerospace Technologies, Embedded Computing at Emerson Network Power in Tempe, Ariz., sees a “ramping down of the operational side,” or expenses relating to troops, and increased investment in infrastructure. He predicts “more expenditures to drive efficiencies into the mechanized force.” The focus will be on revamping and rebuilding infrastructure, he adds.

“I hear a lot of talk about a defense budget slash, but I don’t think it will be executed,” Tucker continues. Rather, he sees investment in a technology refresh cycle and infrastructure.  

“The main thing is to acknowledge that expeditionary warfare is the biggest black hole for monies,” acknowledges Bill Kehret, president and CEO of Themis Computer in Fremont, Calif. The DOD can vastly reduce budget for the whole logistics chain that supports the expeditionary forces, he explains.

In contrast, Kehret and his team are investing in surveillance and reconnaissance for homeland security-type applications. “When we thought we stopped the war, they started thinking about how to bring the war to us. The only way we can guarantee our freedoms is to be intensely vigilant in surveillance and reconnaissance.”

Large programs that are unaffordable, unsustainable, and can’t be produced present more prospects for budget cuts, Kehret says.

Should we feel bad about declining military spending, Kehret ponders. “No, because underneath is a military organization hell-bent on modernization.” Other industry pundits at Embedded Tech Trends 2012 tended to agree, that cyclical budget cuts (defense or no) often bring about a needed separation of wheat from chaff, and an improved focus on what is needed in the field now.

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