December 26, 2012

Turkey & the F-35...a Christmas Delight

Christmas dinner at my house always entails a heated debate. Well, every dinner hosts a heated debate with my family actually, and Christmas was no different. Usually we discuss things going on with the healthcare system or the pros/cons of education in Canada and the UK. But, this year, the debate turned to the F-35 program. We’re an exciting family, aren’t we?!

Having been part of many discussions and presentations about the program with Industry Canada and select contractors involved in the development and sustainment of the aircraft, and coming from the point of view of a PR person, I was amazed to hear my family – normally more savvy to marketing spiel – spout off the program’s opposition so heavily covered by the media. Should I applaud such marketing efforts? They seem to have the two ministers who once supported the program with vigilance stopping in their tracks and turning the other way as if it was their decision the entire time to explore other options.

If the rising costs of the program are the ONLY reason to rescind our support of the program, then statements such as these from respected officials to the National Post must be false, “We point out that the costs of operating the CF-18s over their lifespan has also turned out to be roughly $1-billion a year, just what the F-35s will cost going forward. The F-35s cost a lot of money, yes, but not much more money than any other jet would require. And we’d get a lot of plane for the money — including advanced sensors and computers that are absolutely essential to patrolling our half of the continent. The F-35’s project cost can only be fairly measured against what any other comparable plane would cost….The cost of the F-35 fleet would constitute barely 5% of the total defence budget and 0.4 % of the total federal budget. We can afford that.”

Is it then also fair to assume that other expert opinions given during the development of the JSF program are also false? Is the Eurofighter without the F-35 reconnaissance and stealth capabilities now something we’d consider? Should we grab Boeing Super Hornets and pretend the price tag might be different? Never mind, let’s ignore the money already spent on this program to enter into a competition – which let’s face it was the Achilles of the F-35 from the beginning.  

I can’t pretend to know the answer here. I don’t fly jets and I’m not in the military. And should Lockheed answer why costs are rising and timelines are being delayed? Yes. But I don’t understand why the position has changed so drastically and why there has been no conclusive evidence to show that any other plane would cost us less, give us more capabilities to suit both domestic and foreign efforts, nor be delivered in a timeframe that would keep Canada’s Air Force strong.  

I'd be interested to know how this is going to impact the hundreds of Canadian companies that have already invested in the program.... let me know!

December 10, 2012

And the winners are....

Washington Technology posted an article listing the biggest defense contracts in 2013. The top ten contracts listed total more than 25-billion and go to companies like Honeywell, BAE Systems, General Dynamics and others to support key programs like the F-18 program, the Navy's Portable Radio Program, and others. What was interesting was that maintenance and training was listed as a major priority within at least two of the contracts and that others could surely leverage simulated training capabilities related to the modernization of equipment. Great news for our M&S friends.

December 8, 2012

The Overview Effect

Sometimes you just need to look at things from a different perspective.

Our family friend Guy Reid and his team recently put together this amazing film about the Overview Effect described by NASA astronauts. In this amazing piece of artistry, Guy and the Planetary Collective speak with astronauts who describe the change in the human philosophy of earth once we saw it from the view of space in the 1960's, as well as the perspective it gave us on the governance we owe the earth and our intrinsic connection of our own understanding.

If you have an interest in space, the earth, or the people who work for NASA, this is going to change your perspective on where you fit into the world when sitting on your couch.

Check out the film at: 

December 5, 2012

I/ITSEC 2012 and My (fave) Usual Suspects

I am officially out of the kool kids club for M&S these days, but it doesn't mean I'm not paying attention. Particularly this time of year. I've been watching what's been happening down in Orlando at I/ITSEC and it is seemingly a quieter show from a news perspective - though no less exciting on the show floor!

The I/ITSEC Show Daily is jammed with some amazing news - not least of which is NGRAIN's new Augmented Reality demo that blends the company's 3KO with mobile computing deliver a compelling and interactive maintenance training solution. As a former NGRAIN-er, this was really awesome to see.

TSJ, which is now incorporated into the Defense News site, reinforces that a continued theme at this year's show is declining budgets. LeAnn Ridgeway, vice president of Rockwell Collins simulation group, highlighted the attractiveness of COTS products when maximizing budgets but with the desire to move forward quickly.

At the same time, Nick Giannias, CTO at Presagis spoke about the business drivers that make COTS software attractive when reducing costs, and enhancing training for defense customers. CM Labs and Presagis continue work on ground vehicle simulations that are highly accurate - using COTS solutions to "create and deploy a high-fidelity, real-time simulation core" based on large quantities of data.

[Ya, Ya, I get it. My friends do really cool stuff. And yes, I'm sitting here slightly jealous - ok, well a lot actually! But I'm also just so dang thrilled to see that innovation is really moving forward for these companies and that the "cool" factor is going WAY up!]

But with all this cool stuff, the show still seems kind of quiet. Twitter is barely moving at all with posts using #iitsec and #iitsec2012 crawling by hourly. Blogs like unfortunately retired earlier this year, but others which have kept things going aren't making much noise from the show floor at all.

In a world where things should be integrated from a marketing, PR and social media perspective, I'm wondering how so much AMAZING stuff can be happening on the show floor and not making its way to the news pipeline and online quickly. [Maybe I'm just too much of a NERD? Or maybe it's time companies take charge and create their own forums for news?]

Either way - I'm following the news! And encourage everyone else to get more involved - reTweet, share, post, follow and engage! Get activated! There's so much cool stuff going on and it's up to everyone to get more people talking.

And if you only do one of those things today, "Like" the I/ITSEC Facebook page. If they get to 1000 by tomorrow, the NTSA will be donating $500 to Wounded Warriors.

December 2, 2012

I/ITSEC Kicks Off Tomorrow...But Will it be Quiet?

It's my favourite time of year, the time when all the best get together in Orlando for what has always been my favourite tradeshow. Wireless technologies, operating systems, optical networking, consumer electronics - these industries all have a plethora of events to build brand and connect with partners and customers, but there is none like I/ITSEC. Thousands of square feet covered by every kind of training system available to support the most advanced weapons, vehicles, aircraft, procedures, missions and people of today.

But for some reason, it seems like this year might be a little quiet. Little news has been pushed out in advance of the show. The regular crew of news has come from companies like DiSTI, BARCO, and GL Studio which leveraged releases to drive awareness for activities at their booths. But the list is short this year. I also haven't seen much in social either. Twitter's relatively quiet apart from "check out our booth" posts and LinkedIn is a ghost town.

Yet I know there's a lot going on with companies like CM Labs which has released Vortex 6.0, NGRAIN is making Producer freely available (big news for its users!), and MakeMedia continues to dominate with its use of Presagis tools to create construction simulation applications.

So, looks like attendees are going to have to do a little digging this year - venture a little further outside of their booths this year and pick up that trusted Show Daily from Darren Lake and his team. While unfortunately I'm not heading down this year, I hope that everyone has a wicked time. I can't wait for the photos, stories, and to see what news comes out of the show.