Twitter headquarters in San Francisco.

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. Getty Images / David Odisho

Will Tech Layoffs Finally Help Defense Firms Get the Engineers They Seek?

Some observers say industry and government are moving too slowly to capitalize on a unique opportunity.

Widespread layoffs across the technology sector could help defense companies and even federal agencies attract engineers and tech experts to fill long-vacant jobs. But some observers say defense-related organizations are moving too slowly to take advantage.

While there don’t appear to be major hiring campaigns, corporate recruiters have taken to social media to woo job seekers to thousands of open positions.

“Many talented people have been impacted by layoffs in the past few months and with the holidays approaching, this is a tough time to be without work,” John Heyliger, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of talent acquisition, wrote on LinkedIn. “If you, or someone you know, has found themselves unexpectedly seeking new opportunities, my team and I are here to connect.”

The company has even created a special website, Heyliger said, to connect with the tens of thousands of employees laid off in recent months by tech companies such as Meta, Twitter, and Amazon.

The sudden shift in the labor pool would seem to be a golden opportunity for defense firms, government agencies, and military branches that have long complained that they can’t find enough tech experts. For nearly a decade, the Pentagon has been trying to build bridges with the tech community by standing up outposts in commercial tech hubs across the country. But their recruiting efforts have been hindered by high tech-industry salaries, unfamiliarity with government, a reluctance to work on military projects, and the months-long wait for security clearances.

Like the government, the defense industry has long tried to sell prospective hires on “the mission”: national security. But at press time, Raytheon Technologies was looking to fill more than 6,000 openings in the United States and more than 1,000 more overseas. Northrop Grumman’s recruiting website listed more than 5,800 openings. Lockheed Martin has more than 5,800 of its own openings. Many of these jobs are for software engineers.

Some observers say defense-industry and government recruiters need to pounce on the opportunity afforded by thousands of engineers looking for work.

“For years, we've discussed the need to hire and recognize talent, to shift our old and tired industrial thinking, and better bridge the gap between government and commercial sector,” Michael Kanaan, an Air Force officer and one of the military’s top artificial intelligence experts, wrote on LinkedIn. “Well, senior leaders, what are you waiting for?! We should be on a full-court press in advertising, marketing, fast-track hiring, and accessions. The window is slim, and every passing day we lose the opportunity to draw people with the kinds of experiences that would make such a difference in public service tech.”

“Frankly, given the chance to be in charge for a day, there would be commercials, online videos, ads, and literally every method of publication possible saying, ‘We need you, we will value you, come teach, be a part of change, come code, don't go back to advertising, help us change, lead the change you wish to see in the world, be the change itself,’ and all the other sticky messages we could conjure up,” Kanaan wrote. “Is that happening? No, we are idly watching it slip by, while worrying and complaining how recruitment is down and that we're not prepared for the future. Talk about travesty.”