Tempting as it is for aerospace and defense professionals to think the industry will be better served long-term if voters in the November general election choose Mitt Romney over Barack Obama, don’t believe it. That may seem counterintuitive, but here’s the deal: Whichever presidential candidate wins, he will face a contentious Congress with little or no appetite to approach the country’s most serious problems in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation, the country’s interests—including national security—be damned.
In the House, the Republicans are likely to retain control, and in the Senate, neither party is likely to emerge from the general election with enough seats to bring most legislation to a floor vote. Call me a cynic, but I believe the more likely scenario is that both major parties will continue demonizing each other while the country’s most serious problems fester.
The specter of sequestration cuts to defense spending, amounting to about $500 billion over 10 years on top of the $487 already locked in, will continue to hang over the industry simply because lawmakers have neither the courage nor the inclination to compromise with each other on budget cuts generally. The whole idea of putting country before party will remain little more than a quant concept.
The net result is that industry effectively will be on its own, forced to navigate its own way through what may be the greatest period of uncertainty it has faced in the post-World War II era. That means the combination of program management and business strategy in both the short term and long term will have to be flawless.
Whatever companies have done to try to improve their program management skills, they need to be raise their game. Excessive cuts in talent and R&D to satisfy short-term financial goals will put enterprises at a serious disadvantage in later years, so hopefully few companies will fall into that trap. And how companies deploy (or redeploy) resources—whether it is in the pursuit of adjacent markets or identifying potential opportunities outside the U.S.—will be critical.
So go ahead, vote for whichever candidate you want. Just don’t be seduced into thinking that your guy’s winning will determine the fate of A&D in the near to midterm, regardless of who occupies the White House on Jan. 1. It won’t matter.