Living with uncertainty

Meteorologists face long odds in accurately predicting the weather, particularly in the Washington area where a botched snow forecast can mean drivers stranded on Chain Bridge Road for 6 hours or thousands of federal workers hunkered down at home against “snowquester” with only a dusting on the lawn.

One thing meteorologists are familiar with is uncertainty. Today, so are those inside the Beltway as they come to grips with the true impact of billions of dollars in across-the-board spending cuts that begin to take effect this week.

Within the defense industry, contractors are on guard. Pentagon planners are too, careful of eroding the defense industrial base.

The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer wrote to industry executives this week that spending on research and development and testing and evaluation will need to be cut by $18 billion this year. This kind of funding, referred to as the investment account, is a mainstay of the defense industry’s business model.

“Given the uncertainty we face, the Department will take action in the near term to mitigate budget execution risk to the extent possible; however, damage to the Department and to industry is unfortunately unavoidable at this point,” wrote Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Technology and Logistics in the March 4 letter.

This is just the beginning of a cycle in the industry where companies and Pentagon planners are going to have to learn to live with uncertainty.

Read more on the American Security Project’s Flashpoint blog.