Consumer Electronics Industry Shows How to Break Augustine's Laws

By Chew, James S. B. | National Defense, January 2018 | Go to article overview

Consumer Electronics Industry Shows How to Break Augustine's Laws


Chew, James S. B., National Defense


A book published in 1984 references two tongue-in-cheek "laws" to be avoided within the Defense Department, Congress and the defense industrial base.

The most famous of these laws is: "In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy three and half days each per week, except for leap year when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day."

This book, Augustine's Laws by former secretary of the Army and industry executive Norm Augustine is a collection of anecdotal market trend observations that highlighted the Defense Department's growing dependence on electronic systems in the mid-1970s. Another famous law is: "After the year 2015, there will be no airplane crashes. There will be no takeoffs either, because electronics will occupy 100 percent of every airplane's weight."

Now in its sixth edition and published in six languages, the book's lessons ring true today, as it appears the department and the defense industrial base have adopted many of the laws as goals.

However, it might come as a shock to both entities to learn that Augustine's Laws have been broken by commercial aviation, commercial electronics and the auto industry.

For decades the Defense Department was the driving force behind the development of microelectronics. The Army funded the micromodule project, precursor of the integrated circuit. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency funded the very-large-scale integration project, which created today's electronic design architecture companies and resulted in the development of multi-chip wafer fabrication technology. Today's microelectronics technology would not exist if not for a few brave and visionary defense project officers.

Most of the critical technologies developed under Defense Department science and technology programs have successfully transitioned to the commercial market. "Free market" competitive forces incentivize the commercial industry to invest considerable internal resources to advance and mature these technologies, resulting in affordably priced--and profitable--cutting edge technology products that have "broken" Augustine's Laws.

Microelectronics technology is the most visible and significant example of the commercial market not only transitioning, but significantly advancing defense developed technology. This article is being written on a device that wouldn't exist without this technology. It is also the enabling technology that will allow the Defense Department and defense industrial base to break Augustine's Laws.

Consider the following when assessing the technological state of consumer electronics product development.

When was the last time a commercial company released a "beta" version of their product to the public? When was the last time a major electronics company slipped a product launch date? When was the last time a consumer electronics product wasn't profitable? When was the last time a consumer electronics product had to be recalled?

Success of today's consumer electronics companies is due in large part to the "first-pass success" enabled by electronic design automation tools and processes. These tools and processes, developed by companies that invest up to 40 percent of their annual sales in internal research and development are a result of the intense competition within the unforgiving consumer electronics market, which thrives on getting new products out for next year's big holiday season.

These "first-pass success, futureproofed design" tools and processes are the basis of on-schedule, on-cost product development.

If it is generously assumed that the Defense Department and defense industrial base electronics development process and the commercial electronics development process both achieve "first-pass success," the commercial process timeline is at most 30 percent that of the defense industry process. …

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