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After the Storm: Calm or Paralysis?

July 9, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor
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Kent Schneider, AFCEA’s president and chief executive officer, has called the 2013 U.S. Defense Department’s budget woes “the perfect storm.” Budget cuts, travel restrictions and sequestration converged to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and indecision. For the services, this meant a bit of scrambling to determine how reduced funding could have the least impact on national security. For the defense industry, it became a time of reaction and cutbacks, or at least flat budgets.

It’s difficult to say if the storm is over. Worldwide, countries continue to watch their wallets carefully while responding to world events. Simultaneously, companies that have depended on government contracts remain wary of hiring additional personnel, investing in marketing or developing new technologies that could solve problems but governments may not be able to afford to purchase.

The problem with waiting for normal to come around again is that it never does … or at least not in the way military and corporate leaders would like to believe. And, in the meantime, a sort of paralysis sets in. It’s safer to stay in one place to see if another storm is coming than it is to take a risk and come out of the cellar.

But any good military leader can explain the problem with that tactic: A unit that stays in one place isn’t likely to win a war and quite possibly will be overrun. Safe may be safe, but it certainly isn’t a winning strategy.

Even if the storm isn’t over, 2014 has seen some organizations peeking their heads out of the storm cellars. While government agencies may not be buying at the levels they used to, they are window shopping and addressing problems with acquisition processes. And, while companies haven’t resumed their pre-2013 spending amounts, they are cautiously venturing out to determine the storm damage and perhaps return to some form of what used to be considered normal investing in their futures.

The bottom line is that moving forward has always meant taking risks. It’s time to get over it. This may be the calm before another storm. Take advantage of it. Government agencies and the corporate sector need to develop strategies and move ahead with them. Is another storm on the horizon? Probably. But holing up in the cellar won’t prevent it and will very likely mean missing opportunities.

How has your organization responded to the economic perfect storm? Is it advancing on opportunities, preparing for another storm or standing comfortably still?

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