The coronavirus pandemic is not yet over — despite our most optimistic thinking — and this year’s Defense News Top 100 list offers hints of how the broader international defense market has coped.
The answer appears to be that national security firms have fared well. Very well.
Consider that six of the 10 largest U.S. defense companies had revenues jump by 6 percent or more — a total of about $11 billion — from fiscal 2019. And all seven Chinese firms on the list grew during the last year as well.
The pandemic has shown — or maybe exposed — a workforce in which everyone is always online, always connected and, during the last 16 months, always on the job. That’s also true of the national security community. During this era of gray zone conflict, information warfare and cyberattacks, it’s often felt like there has been no letting up, no pause, no time to catch a breath.
At the same time, this year’s list marks yet another significant shift in how the industry is changing. Last summer, I mentioned that the Top 100 is part art and part science but that every year we push it a bit closer to science. We succeeded in that vision for 2021.
This year’s list includes more than 20 new names. Part of that is due to mergers since last summer. For example, Raytheon Technologies — the result of a combined United Technologies Corporation and Raytheon Company — makes its debut at No. 2.
Some of those new additions are due to a more aggressive approach on our part to seek out information on defense revenues from companies around the world or from firms we either overlooked or for which we couldn’t previously find revenue figures.
As evidence, last year’s 100th company on the list had just less than $300 million in defense revenue. This year, the 100th firm has just less than $600 million.
And some of the change serves as proof of the shifting demands of modern warfare.
Among the companies that are new — or returning — to the Top 100 are the cyber firm ManTech, the space company Parsons Corporation, the satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies, sensor company FLIR Systems, and emerging technologies company Alion Science and Technology. For all the talk of a digital, net-centric battlespace, this year’s list may best reflect how industry is bending and evolving toward that future.
The primary story in the defense industry has been one of relentless growth. A decade ago, 15 companies had $5 billion in defense revenue. Today, we know of at least 24 companies that reach the same threshold.
By next year at this time, we will know if a coronavirus could slow the defense economy down or if even a once-in-a-generation pandemic is a mere hiccup.
Mike Gruss is the editor in chief of Sightline Media Group.