Concerns about the effects of the looming loss of almost $500 billion from the U.S. defense budget dominated discussions at TechNet Land Forces–South in Tampa, Florida, in July. As government and industry prepare to focus harder on efficiencies in the face of tighter fiscal constraints, many participants also extolled the need for better communications between the two groups.
Lt. Gen. Bradley A. Heithold, USAF, vice commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), explained the effect of cost measures on special operations forces (SOF). Because of the predicted need for their unique skills, SOF actually will see increased funding. Gen. Heithold played a key role in building the SOCOM budget and took part in mapping the larger defense budget. He told listeners that decision makers made choices carefully and deliberately, weighing cuts against the future defense strategy.
The military will look even more to industry to develop technologies and to help troops find economical ways to field necessary capabilities. The role is not particularly new for the private sector. John A. Wilcox, director of communications systems and chief information officer (CIO) of SOCOM, stated that the military does not lead innovation and turns to the private sector as well as academia for advances.
Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., ANG, the adjutant general for Florida, spoke about the many dangers inhibiting border security, but stated that “Our biggest threat right now is the budget.” Drug smuggling organizations earn hundreds of billions of dollars each year, which they can use to acquire new resources to destabilize life on land or in the maritime environment. Terrorists often engage in drug running to fund their operations.