DoD budget request funds platforms that leverage small form factors

Regardless of which military trade show I attend or what military application is being discussed at a show, the common trend is that everything is getting smaller, whether it’s GPS systems, avionics computers, unmanned aircraft system (UAV) payloads, etc. This trend bodes well for suppliers to the military of small-form-factor standards such as PC/104, COM Express, or SMARC.

The applications that demand these standards are also getting the most important type of attention from the U.S. government, as the president’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) shows. Increased funding for radar, electronic warfare (EW), and communications programs promise growth for defense electronics suppliers.

The total FY 2017 budget request is $582.7 billion, up $2.4 billion from the $580.3 billion enacted in FY 2016. The overall Research, Development, Test, & Evaluation (RDT&E) budget for FY 2017 is $71.765 billion, an increase over the FY 2016 enacted total of $69.968 billion. Funding dropped slightly, however, for the DoD’s Science and Technology program, from $13 billion in FY 2016 to $12.5 billion for FY 2017.

Designers of embedded computing, signal processing, open architectures, and other commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions should find a steady market as the DoD’s missions continue to rely more and more on cyber interventions; command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR); radar; and EW systems to keep an edge both on battlefields and during peacetime. Each application has an insatiable need for bandwidth and processing capability that is only fueled by embedded computing and open architecture designs. Below are key areas within the DoD budget that leverage embedded hardware and software.


Cyber operations get a $900 million increase in the FY 2017 budget program, with a total of $6.7 billion requested. For more on the DoD’s cyber strategy, visit


Total EW funding in the FY 2017 RDT&E budget is $298 million, more than $100 million more than the FY 2016 enacted total of $184 million. The Navy gets most these funds, with $183 million requested for the service. The Army and Air Force are slated to receive $102.5 million and $12.5 million, respectively. Procurement for the Navy’s AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare Suite is down slightly from the FY 2016 enacted total of $296 million, to about $275 million.


RDT&E funding for radar programs comes in at about $755 million for FY 2017, down about $5 million from the FY 2016 enacted total of $760 million. Key programs getting FY 2017 RDT&E funding include Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) at $144.3 million, Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) at $83.538 million, and Three Dimensional Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) at $49.5 million.

Radar program procurement for the FY 2017 RDT&E request comes in at about $560 million, a slight decrease over the FY 2016 enacted total of $568 million. Counterfire radars for the Army top the radar procurement request at $314 million, an increase of more than $100 million over the FY 2016 enacted total of $198 million.

Other key programs

The M1A2 Abrams battle tank has been modernized with a series of upgrades to improve its capabilities. Total FY 2017 funding – procurement, research, and development – in FY 2017 rises from $509 million in FY 2016 to $559 million.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) consists of three variants: the F-35A Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL), the F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL), and the F-35C Carrier variant (CV). Total funding – procurement, research, and development – drops from $11.602 billion in FY 2016 to $10.504 billion in FY 2017.

Total funding for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) in the FY 2017 budget rises from $1.816 billion in FY 2016 to $1.599 billion.

All these numbers indicate a healthy demand for small form factor, embedded computing technology for military systems. However, uncertainty still reigns. As of this writing, the presidential election remains undecided. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the front-runners for the Democrat and Republican primaries, respectively. As democratic presidents are traditionally not as pro-defense spending as Republicans and Trump is an unknown, future DoD budget increases remain hard to predict.

If you would like a distraction from the crazy election atmosphere, read the budget documents in full at By the time you’re done reading, we may have a new president.