Drop That Budget Ax Or the Zebra Gets It

The second page of a recent AIA report on remotely piloted vehicles. (Source: AIA)

The above image caught the Intercepts staff off guard, eliciting furrowed brows and a few chuckles. It reminded this correspondent of something out of the Showtime comedy series “House of Lies,” in which eccentric advertising/marketing consultants take the art of spin to new levels in the pursuit of their clients’ goals.

The image is the second page of a recent Aerospace Industries Association report on unmanned vehicles. The report, not surprisingly, is an advocacy document that touts the many capabilities of unmanned platforms.

The Intercepts staff realizes weapon system manufacturers and their lobbying groups will have to get creative with their marketing products as US and European defense budgets continue to flatten or shrink. But, c’mon, a zebra? Maybe it was just the recent debate over the proper role of armed drones in Washington’s fight against al-Qaida. (Or maybe covering the defense sector has left us a bit jaded.) Still, the Intercepts team couldn’t help but interpret the zebra’s presence as a not-so-subtle argument that the zebra will, uh, be negatively affected if defense budgets are cut further.

Turns out, however, our reaction helps prove AIA’s point.

The report mostly touts the many non-military uses of remotely piloted systems. Here’s a sample:

“Consequently, the potential benefits of these systems are now projected to extend well beyond military use – to a variety of domestic applications that will improve the safety of our communities, strengthen public services and achieve countless additional benefits to a wide variety of commercial and government organizations. As with any emerging technology, public opinion regarding these systems often begins in the imagination, and may harden into myth through misconception, popular culture and an inability to imagine the non-military benefits of a platform that has traditionally been used for national defense.”

“…The benefits of [remotely piloted planes’] technological brethren in ground- and sea-based systems go largely unquestioned. Unmanned underwater vehicles were used in repair operations following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, sparking scant controversy. … Very seldom does the rationale of protecting human lives extend to the use of aerial systems. This must change.”

Fair points, all. We plead guilty to harboring some — but certainly not all — of such perceptions. The zebra lives.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett