By: Endre Lunde, Nammo
As an industry, we are failing.
How? By allowing the defense industry to be stereotyped, to be sidelined, to be everyone’s favorite villain, to be the ones falling back on jobs figures and political influence when the going gets tough. By not acknowledging that the cultural clash with Silicon Valley is only a symptom of a larger cultural clash between the defense industry and the wider societies we serve.
We also seem to forget how small we are. In a world with trillion dollar companies, even the biggest among us don’t amount to more than a fifth of that (and that is on the back of a substantial civilian footprint). In fact, just one of those giants is worth more than the top 20 companies on Defense News’ top 100 defense companies list - combined. Google earns more in one quarter than most top defense companies do in a year. We are not the ones that are going to define the terms of those relationships.
And despite our recruitment drives, vocational training programs, research partnerships, charity sponsorships - despite defense company Superbowl ads, logos plastered all over DC Metro stops, on airports serving major bases – we cannot deny the fact that we continue to live in our own little bubble, essentially preaching to the choir. We wall ourselves off behind complex long term programs, security restrictions, behind impenetrable technical jargon and glossy marketing. Rarely, if ever do we talk to those outside the defense bubble on their terms, and demonstrate that we appreciate that we need their legitimacy, their permission to operate, their support to continue to do what we do.
And our bubble may well be about to burst. Gone are the days when defense could operate comfortably alone, when we were the ones leading the charge in technology, when we could rely on governments to foot the bill that allowed us to remain in our comfort zone. If we truly believe that we have a role in fulfilling a larger mission, in providing the tools, technologies and services securing the future of our societies, we have to do something about this. If we want society to continue to trust us with their money, to work for us and with us, to share their knowledge and skills, we have to change. We have to dare to face the difficult questions, to step out of our bubbles, refuse to be stereotyped. We have to demystify the defense industry, tell our story more effectively, demonstrate real transparency, show that we care about what society in general thinks about us. And we have to begin now – because we cannot afford to wait much longer.