Guest Blogger: Julie Wood

Julie Wood is president of the Women In Defense-Michigan Chapter (WID-MI), a National Security Organization and non-profit professional networking and development organization for women and men across Michigan who contribute to national defense and security. Julie has been involved in the defense industry for the past six years, and has served on the WID-MI board since its inception. 

Julie worked for several years as a business manager for ASRC Primus before moving to Rave Computer to serve as the proposal development manager and business development analyst for Modeling & Simulation and C4ISR government programs. In this role, she evaluates potential business opportunities and builds relationships with key industry partners to pursue identified programs.  Julie is a graduate of Oakland University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education. 

Michigan's Defense Industry Meets Sequestration Head-On

We watched and waited. Panic set in. We fought against it and urged our legislators to take action. But it happened anyway… sequestration. And as I look at my calendar, it is now May. So I pinch myself. Yep, still here. 

I've survived thus far. Now I ask myself, "What will the future hold? Where will I find opportunity?" As someone who works business development for a small Michigan-based company, I have a daunting task ahead of me. I have to seek out and secure new work in a downward spiral. As the president of the Women In Defense-Michigan Chapter, it's my chapter's responsibility to not only cultivate women leadership, but also provide education and insight to our member companies. No pressure. 

We, as an industry, have faced several uncertainties over the past few months, and the days and weeks ahead will only get more difficult to navigate. Although the defense industry felt financial pressure before, sequestration has placed tremendous, unparalleled stresses on businesses in this sector.  We have continually faced the challenge of delivering faster and being more innovative. We will now face the added challenge of creating more for significantly less. And it will be painful, but as an industry dedicated to protecting our soldiers, I believe that we will find the will and the way to drive ahead.

The Women In Defense-Michigan Chapter, as a representative of the defense industry, is trying to help inform our membership. Our organization is made up of government personnel, industry leaders and newcomers from both large and small business. We certainly don't pretend to have all of the answers, but we know that the only way for our member companies to be successful is to stay informed, continue to network, and work together. 

Most recently, we provided an opportunity for our membership to come and listen to defense strategists talk about opportunity. Notice, I'm staying positive. There's still work out there: vehicles will need to be maintained, we will have to step up our game in cyber security, unmanned systems, and autonomous vehicles. New technology is always needed to stay ahead of our enemies. 

Michigan as a whole is working hard to instill upon the country the importance of its military existence. And we have a lot to offer – the Detroit Arsenal, Selfridge ANGB, and Camp Grayling, just for starters. Plus there are a whole slew of large and small businesses clustered around these areas working on current programs. There is still work ongoing to develop new vehicles; the GCV and the JLTV are happening as I write. There is a movement to bring more cyber security efforts to Michigan. There is also a push to bring more UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) work to the state. Despite all of the negativity, everyone is working together to keep bringing work to our state. 

That doesn't mean things will be easy. Stringent monetary constraints and lack of direction will make moving forward interesting. From the small business perspective, I will be vigilant to review every opportunity that comes my way. I will continue to stay in touch with my network. I will look for opportunities to partner with other small businesses. I have to remind myself that the playground is still there, but it's smaller. We'll all be running for the same set of swings this time.

While it sounds cliché, we need to be smart. Companies will need to stay lean and not be afraid to be innovative and push boundaries, maybe even take a risk.  Professionals, like those who are involved with Women In Defense, will need to leverage strengths and resources within our networks to continue to drive our industry forward.  And every once in a while we will remind ourselves to breathe. 

For those in the defense industry, our work is life changing and life saving.  We are charged with helping keep soldiers safe and our troops equipped to handle the demands of modern defense and security. We will meet that challenge head on. The optimist in me says that it will not be this bad forever; I'll look at the calendar next May and things will have changed, but as someone ready to roll with the tide, I still plan on being here.
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