People like lists. And certainly, there are plenty of lists to come by in our space — some are based on contract awards, some are based on total revenue. To quote a really terrible proverb, there are many ways to skin a cat.
How we do it is to rank companies by defense revenue — that is, sales that support efforts in military, intelligence and aspects of homeland security. It’s a tactic that we believe isolates the one statistic that best reflects market presence.
But it’s not an easy statistic to come by. We ask companies to dig up and submit to us the totals, which can often be strewn across multiple business units and programs.
Many do, but some don’t. In certain cases we can pretty safely find the numbers ourselves (particularly when they release annual earnings). Other times we can get input from the analyst community to draw reasonable conclusions. Trickier still are companies in Japan, where we can only get contract data from the Defense Ministry. And in some cases, whether it be the tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon or private companies like General Atomics that play in both civilian and defense markets, some can’t or won’t participate. In such cases, we’re out of luck.
So we do our best, and where the totals are not apples to apples or bring with them some caveat, we’ll tell you.
All that said, we do believe this is the most thorough and accurate list of its kind — and arguably the only list that provides an effective snapshot of the global defense market. And given this list has been produced for almost three decades, since 1991, trends emerge that often reflect market tides and bottom-line effects, up or down, to big moves by companies.
So who’s up and who’s down for 2018, based on 2017 defense revenue? Take a look, see what we had to say about the results in our cover story and come up with your own theories.
And if you are so inclined, send them our way.
Jill Aitoro was editor of Defense News. She was also executive editor of Sightline Media's Business-to-Government group, including Defense News, C4ISRNET, Federal Times and Fifth Domain. She brought over 15 years’ experience in editing and reporting on defense and federal programs, policy, procurement, and technology.