The War With Iraq Affects Each Of Us Differently, Depending On Our Job

April 28, 2003
Whether you personally agree or disagree with the war in Iraq, certain fundamentals hold true. War is hell for our troops in the Middle East—and rather surreal for us here at home. On my last trip, as I waited on the Newark airport curb, I...

Whether you personally agree or disagree with the war in Iraq, certain fundamentals hold true. War is hell for our troops in the Middle East—and rather surreal for us here at home. On my last trip, as I waited on the Newark airport curb, I watched fully armed troops take position to protect their bus as they rotated their airport guard shift. Inside my suitbag, I found notification it had been searched as part of security rotated their airport guard shift. Furthermore, inside my suitbag, I found notification that it had been searched as part of security efforts.

Like many of you, I'm feeling the fear, the insecurity, and the inconvenience of living under an "orange alert." If, as President Bush says, the war began on September 11, 2001, then this is a first-time experience for all of us: at war following attack on the U.S. mainland.

I'm trying to surmise what effect this war may have on the American community of EEs and on individuals who work as electronics designers.

Some of you know firsthand the tragic reality of the terror attacks and the war. Some of you have family and friends directly involved in the combat. May the war be over—and your loved ones coming home—by the time you read this.

Many of your professional lives are also being affected. For those of you involved directly in government and military projects, as well as others in avionics, marine, space, and military electronics, the war will put to the test the systems you dedicated many man-years to design. Maybe you helped develop our smart "E-bombs," which accurately target electronics rather than humans. Your work has certainly taken on a huge new significance.

I'm curious to know how those of you working on projects involving high-security clearance have been affected. You've likely experienced tighter physical and data security surrounding your work. Such extra caution prevents advanced electronics technology from falling into the wrong hands. Some of you are working on biometrics and other technologies offering us homeland security.

Those of you working on commercial aviation projects have a different perspective: You are well aware that United and other airlines may not survive a second round of air-traveler angst.

Then there are those EEs involved in the computer industry, hearing that war may send our tentative tech-spending recovery stumbling to double-dip recession. According to a March report by the American Electronics Association, the U.S. lost 560,000 jobs in the high-tech industry from 2001 to 2002. Not surprisingly, the unemployment rate for electrical and electronics engineers has more than tripled, going from 1.3% in 2000 to 4.2% last year.

Good news or bad news, the EEs in the communications industries help keep us all connected. The Cellular Telephone and Internet Association reports that 2002 saw a gain in wireless minutes use of 36% over 2001. The CTIA also announced that the American Red Cross will communicate to blood donors via wireless when supplies dwindle—an ominous hark back to the blood-donor days following September 11, 2001.

We're all waiting for the day when the "terror risk-rater" diode is emitting green once again. I know we are all united in desire for a safer world in which to live and to create the technologies that build a better life. In the meantime, send me an e-mail to tell me how you've been affected in your professional life.

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