At one time military technology represented the state of the art, but those days are long past. Today, driven by cell phones, tablet computers, tiny cameras, and other handheld computing and communications capability, commercial companies have catapulted past military contractors as purveyors of cutting-edge technology.
As often as not these days, in fact, the military relies on commercially developed technology adapted to military uses for many advanced defense systems. One of the few areas where military technology reigns supreme involves information security, encryption, and cryptography.
So today what's to differentiate defense contractors from commercial companies in the race to develop new technologies? Until now one of the big ones has involved information security and encryption. These often-proprietary technologies can safeguard military computers and communications equipment from hackers and unauthorized eavesdropping.
U.S. data security and encryption technology long has been favored around the world to keep critical information away from prying eyes.
All that may be changing, however, because of the recent and seemingly continuous scandals involving the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), which is accused of spying not only on U.S. citizens, but also on national leaders throughout the world.
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In the long run it doesn't matter whether the NSA is or is not engaging in these kinds of activities. What matters is perception, and globally this is turning against U.S. military encryption technology, which must be certified by the NSA.
This leaves U.S. prime military contractors in a tight spot. Already battered at home by shrinking Pentagon budgets, these contractors had been counting on continuing international sales of military technology to maintain their revenue streams.
Yet with a chilling international market for U.S.-developed information and communications systems that depend on reliable security and encryption, U.S. defense companies may have to dig even deeper to find reliable markets for their wares overseas.