I'll never forget my conversation with defense-industry leader Bob Beyster.
Armed with a doctorate degree and decades of experience, Beyster ranked as one of the U.S. defense industry's true visionary thinkers. That came through loud and clear when I interviewed him for Signal magazine back in early 1999.
Beyster could talk with ease about everything from the impact of the dot-com boom of the 1990s to the future of information technology at the Pentagon.
This University of Michigan-educated scientist was a walking, talking encyclopedia of global tech trends. He gave me loads of insight into the major shifts that would reshape our world far beyond defense - from changes in telecommunications to how the Web would slash business costs for thousands of global firms.
With fond memories of that chat, I have been a faithful follower of the groundbreaking company Beyster founded some 35 years ago.
I'm referring to Science Applications International Corp. (NYSE: SAIC), now headquartered in McLean, VA.
Obama's Defense Cuts Mean More Mergers for Tech Investors
I can explain the impact of President Obama's new defense budget to investors in one word - mergers.
Indeed, the M&A field will remain a driving force in the defense sector for at least the next two years.
The good news for tech investors is that Obama's focus fits with the Pentagon's push for more high-tech breakthroughs.
We're talking about more drones instead of fighter jets and robots to replace troops for some tough jobs.
But don't gloss over information technology since it cuts through the entire supply chain.
Since World War II, the U.S. military has pursued high tech at a rapid pace.
However, that trend gained speed in recent years after the Pentagon rolled out the concept of making computers an even bigger part of our fighting forces.
You see, the top brass likes to call it "net-centric warfare." I know it sounds complex. But it really is very simple.
Here's the big idea: link every facet of defense to secure networks. Ideally, that means senior leaders could track every boat, bullet and bayonet on one computer screen.
Obama's Budget Cuts in a Modern WorldAnd now, new budget cuts mean the military must do more with less.
Today, we're facing a new Cold War with China, while at the same time we are cutting spending and reducing troop strength.
Here's what it all means for investors...
At least once a month, the CEO of a company with great tech realizes he needs more financial muscle to survive the leaner times.
That usually means selling to a larger firm.
So look for defense companies that have access to financing or enough cash to go on shopping sprees.
Just last month, Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT), revealed it bought a firm that provides autopilot and other devices for small drones.
I believe this is a shrewd purchase. After all, the military is clearly moving toward more unmanned aerial vehicles.
These UAVs come in a wide range of sizes and applications.
At one end we have the Predator drone. It's about the size of a private jet and receives heavy use by the U.S. against Al Qaeda terrorists.
Now just shrink that down to the size of a large insect and you have the new generation of drones. In the very near future these types of drones will find wide use in surveillance missions.
A high-tech team at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is working on micro drones that look like bugs. They fit in the palm of your hand and are designed to find the enemy in tight urban terrain.
Cyber-security will also remain an active area for the Defense Department and Homeland Security. While Obama's budget for 2013 cuts 100,000 troops, it does emphasize cyber-operations.
Consider that on December 29 Raytheon Co. (NYSE: RTN) said it is buying a small, privately held cyber-security firm. That was the second such merger in three weeks for Raytheon.
Those two Raytheon mergers occurred just weeks after the Pentagon said it reserves the right to respond to an attack on its computers with the use of force.
The field is attracting foreign interest as well. French giant EADS (EPA: EAD) says it wants in on the action and will buy firms to do so.
Though EADS hasn't said it will buy in the U.S., it's a good bet the company will at least look in America as it tries to balance out the sales of its jumbo jets.
On the other hand, not all the defense mergers will turn on high tech...
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