Recently, thousands of technology company workers have taken a strong stand: they don’t want their technical skills and labor to be used to help the military or federal law enforcement agencies to perform their operations. Knowledge of these contracts, though, has been difficult for many IT professionals to come by, specifically because they are rarely publicized. “The contracting world is a highly insular world,” says Steve McKellan, director of sales and marketing for The Linux Foundation. “The people in the know generally stay away from the press.” While the media may pay attention to government contracts with pharmaceutical companies, for example, it’s generally the small businesses that receive attention when something goes wrong. Outsourcing to the government is also a highly sensitive issue – companies are often wary of partnering with the federal government, worried that contracts may be abused and given to the wrong users.
One of the first questions that a reporter might ask is, why companies don’t just outsource their IT contract needs directly to the military. The answer is complicated. First of all, federal agencies don’t just outsource work. They also give certain contracts to companies like Microsoft, Cisco, and other major players in the computer hardware marketplace to provide artificial intelligence software, hardware, networking solutions, or any number of things that go into making the big government projects.
“You would have to ask the secretary of defense why they’re not outsourcing,” says David Price, a vice president of marketing for Sycom, one of the leading companies in the network equipment market. The answer is that the military doesn’t want to buy any more tech military contracts. In fact, the secretary of defense has made it clear that they don’t want to buy any more tech contracts. But, as companies look for ways to stay in the business, they’re looking at contracts to supply them with artificial intelligence software, networking solutions, and the like. These are the types of technologies that are critical to the mission.
In fact, many of these contracts are being eyed by Sycom. The company’s core business is providing end-to-end military training systems and services. It also has deals with Raytheon, Northrop, and Cskis, two of the biggest names in the satellite, aircraft, and missile industries. Price says that there’s a growing demand for artificial intelligence software, networking solutions, and networking hardware from the military. He says that the only way to meet those demands is to tap the expertise of the best companies in the field.
Some say that the answer is simple. Tech companies, such as Sycom, need to build the next generation of weapons systems. These weapons systems have to be highly accurate and have to be able to fire accurately and rapidly. Plus, they have to be flexible enough to incorporate new technological improvements. As a result, tech companies need to continue to work with the military, even after contracts with them have ended.
Indeed, there is probably little that could make military personnel happy more than being able to purchase new weapons systems from tech companies. The contracts with Sycom include a number of weapon systems. One of those is the Joint Lightweight Aerial Vehicle, or LAV. The LAV is a new design for a vehicle that can replace much heavier aerial vehicles.