The adage is that it is difficult for an aircraft carrier to turn on a dime.

The same could be said for the defense industry or Pentagon budgets and as such, the Defense News Top 100 list.

Changes are slow and can take time to appear on our list. For example, for the first time, this year’s list reflects the result of the L3-Harris merger. L3, ranked 18th on last year’s list, and Harris, ranked 26th a year ago, merged to form what everyone expected: one of the world’s largest defense corporations in L3Harris Technologies, ranked 9th on our list.

Click here to see the Defense News Top 100 list.

Next year, observers will see the results of the merger between Raytheon, ranked 5th on this year’s list, and United Technologies Corp., ranked 10th on this year’s list.

Thematically, the shifts that defense and military leaders have spent years discussing are becoming fully reflected in industry. China’s heavy investments in defense are becoming evident by the inclusion of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (6th), China North Industries Group Corporation Limited (8th), and China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (11th) on this year’s list. The role of integration and communication tools is becoming more important, as is evidenced by Leidos, Peraton and Perspecta’s inclusion. Medium-sized businesses are becoming increasingly critical players.

And, for years, U.S. military leaders have heard from Silicon Valley startups that it remains too difficult to break into the defense market in a meaningful way. Advocates will likely point by how few are in the list. Other companies have complained that the big primes have too much of a lock on Pentagon contracts, perhaps seen in how the top five bring in more than twice the revenue of the next five.

Each year, the Defense News Top 100 is part art, part science. Every year, the Defense News team tries to push it a bit closer to science. This year’s list, like years past, is a snapshot of what’s happening in defense markets and maybe, just maybe, a hint of what’s to come.

Mike Gruss served as the editor-in-chief of Sightline Media Group's stable of news outlets, which includes Army Times, Air Force Times, C4ISRNET, Defense News, Federal Times, Marine Corps, Military Times and Navy Times.

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