I know — with the start of every new year we’re bombarded with lists. The worst kept secret in media is that it’s a simple way to throw together content at the slowest time of year so we can all enjoy our holidays.
There, I said it.
But there is a reason why these lists so often perform well. They are not only an interesting archive of the years past, but also a hint at what we can expect to dominate our market in the year to come. Nothing in defense and security moves fast, so what festered or drew interest in 2017 will probably inch further into the spotlight this year.
That said, the approach for our Year in Review list at Defense News was not necessarily to hand-pick the most important stories based upon editorial judgment (trust me, journalists could never find a consensus on such a thing).
Instead, we decided to let the numbers speak for themselves, offering up the 10 stories that drew the most web traffic.
You can find the stories that made the cut at defensenews.com/2017-year-in-review. But here’s the headline rundown:
So what does this tell us? First, Navy news dominated the year (worth noting perhaps that subsequent stories related to the McCain collision also fell within the top 10, but we decided to not include more than one story on the same topic).
Second, and perhaps tied to the first, signs of either ineptitude or potential disaster draw an audience. Consider it the media equivalent of rubbernecking while driving by a car crash. Human nature.
But these headlines tell us more about what’s to come in 2018 — a hint at least.
For one thing, tensions with North Korea have grown more intense, driving not only military and political commentary but also support for widespread increases in missile defense capabilities. What was a nuisance only a couple years ago has become a legitimate threat.
All this will likely accelerate in the first half of the year, as the Nuclear Posture Review and the Missile Defense Review drop and industry and services alike try to decide what that means from a tactical perspective.
And of course much will ride on what Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump decide to do. Talk of big buttons has many uneasy.
Also evident in the headlines: the start of the Trump administration rapidly transitioning to political wrangling, both within the U.S. as well as globally. The Russia investigation combined with budget standoffs and midterm elections will only amplify that. At the same time, America First rhetoric and NATO lashings from the administration left some uneasy about foreign relations.
And yet, global military cooperation accelerated. Looking ahead, allies are demanding more for the money they filter to the U.S. and the American industrial base, and more money filtering back to their own coffers at the same time.
Other interesting international happenings: Global tensions have created a spotlight on U.S. presence around the globe. Talk of possible acquisitions of foreign defense giants. Loosening of restrictions on military sales to allies — whether it be the F-35 to the United Arab Emirates, or drones to the international market at large. Globalization at its best.
So all that said, will 2018 be little more than iterative movements forward?
One can only hope. After a tough 2017, it’s hard to imagine any major event that could enhance global security, versus jeopardizing it.