Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Game Over, Man.

The JED/eDefense Online team have been given their walking papers, which is why things have been quiet around here. Now that the dust has settled, here's the scoop:

JED is the magazine of the The Association of Old Crows (AOC), the professional society advocating electronic warfare. It has been published by Horizon House Publications of Norwood, Massachusetts, for the last 25 years or so. I've been editor-in-chief for the last five years, and managing editor for a year-and-a-half before that. The June 2006 issue will be the last published by Horizon House. As of July, the AOC is taking over editorial control in house and will use a contract publisher in Texas specializing in association magazines to do the marketing and production.

The website, eDefense Online, is being discontinued as well. More on that another time.

The AOC controls the circulation of JED. Horizon House does not. In fact, Horizon House was barred by contract from engaging in effective marketing and circulation development programs. This rather suited Horizon House, because marketing and circulation are the most expensive aspects of magazine publication. A subscription to JED is a benefit of membership in the AOC, which costs about $35 a year and goes directly to the association. Horizon House made its money on JED through advertising. The problem was: the AOC has been declining from a height of about 26,000 members in the mid-1980s, the swan song of the Cold War, to about 13,000 today. A sizable portion of the remaining members are retirees, and not valued by advertisers.

The reason the AOC's membership had declined so drastically was that the priority of its core missions, electronic warfare and signals intelligence, fell along with the Soviet Union. Without digressing into a seminar on electronic warfare, it is enough to say that the requirement to have thousands of air, land, sea, and submarine platforms to send into harms way against a well-armed, technologically competent adversary is not what it once was. Evidence of this can be seen in the consolidation of the electronic warfare industry. Mergers and acquisitions have caused the number of independent companies specializing in electronic warfare to fall sharply throughout the 1990s to the present day. The shrinking field of companies that supply EW products and services means a shrinking traditional advertising base for JED.

At the same time, technology -- and the digital revolution in particular -- has marched over or around the hard-wired, black-box world of traditional EW systems. Dedicated EW systems are now considered subsystems of integrated sensor suites. Systems like radar-warning-receivers now also serve as geolocation targeting systems. Active electronically scanning radar systems provide electronic attack jamming functions. The story here is that software-defined functions and modes are taking over for dedicated analog EW systems. This is the case in just about every EW category, with the possible exception of self-protection decoy systems such as chaff and flares. This is not to say that dedicated, high-value EW programs are history. The ICAP III modernization of the EA-6B Prowler and the development of the follow-on EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft are key programs. But the number of such systems is declining.

At JED, the editorial and publishing teams saw this as an opportunity to evolve the magazine to reflect these new realities. In a nutshell, we tried to tell the story of how the electronic-warfare and information-operations missions were percolating throughout the armed services, becoming part of the integrated intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting (ISTAR) process. At the same time, we tried to show how other systems, such as AESA radars, software-defined radios, and forward-looking infrared (FLIR) systems were assuming platform protection functions that were formerly the role of dedicated EW systems.

We hoped to work together with the AOC to embrace this approach, and grow their membership. They cut us off at the knees.

JED lives on but the old team does not. I particularly want to call attention to the peerless work of Michal Fiszer, my friend and JED's (now former) European Editor, based in Poland. Situational Awareness readers are well aware of Michal's excellence. It is no secret to state that through Michal and his contacts, JED published information about Russian- and Soviet-source threat systems never before published in the West. Alas, no longer.

But, Michal and I are collaborating on a book series, starting with Russian and Soviet air-defense systems. Updates as they occur.

So, in a spirit of fencing, I salute the new editorial team at JED and wish them well. John Knowles and Hal Gershanoff are old JED hands, and know more about old-school EW than just about anybody alive. The AOC has taken its bat and ball and gone home.

Game over, man. Game over.


At 3:08 AM, Anonymous G.Dubois said...

As an industrial designer, i have found your online wares very interesting and insightfull. I have bought books based on stories here, rented DVD, contacted firms about their products for my company etc. And if marketers don't find me an interresting market to pursue, then they are just nuts.


At 4:18 AM, Anonymous stevensnell said...

Hi Michael,

I'd only had SA for a couple of months, so am sorry to read its game over already.

Glad to hear you've got a book series in the works with Michal.

Thanks for posting the videos, will watch them this weekend.


At 8:20 PM, Blogger Michael Puttre said...

Thanks, Steven. We'll keep things running here for a while, anyway. Best, --Michael


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