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Posted by John Keller

It's not often you see three-quarters of a state's congressional delegation in the same room -- unless it's a joint session of Congress for events like the president's state-of-the-union speech. Yet gather a lot of potential voters where bread-and-butter issues are involved, and congressmen and senators tend to clear their calendars.

We live in an era of intensely partisan politics, yet there's nothing like thousands of voters and millions of dollars in federal money to bring Democrats and Republicans together.

It was such a day Monday, despite the gray, slushy weather with temperatures in the mid-20s at the BAE Systems Electronics & Integrated Solutions segment in Nashua, N.H., where company leaders dedicated a new integrated electronics manufacturing facility for electronic warfare systems called the RF Systems Common Build.

BAE Systems is doing great things in manufacturing. Company leaders are put the finishing touches on facilities in New Hampshire -- with the latest demand-driven supply chain management -- to build the electronic warfare systems for the F-22 Raptor advanced tactical fighter, the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, and other yet-unknown future military aircraft.

In the process, incidentally, they've evacuated 15,000 square feet of manufacturing floor at the Nashua plant, which will be rededicated by as early as this spring, to start manufacturing electronic systems to defeat terrorist weapons like improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The new facility dedication on Monday -- with its requisite ribbon cutting -- ostensibly is what drew Democratic U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes, as well as Republican Sen. John Sununu. Republican Sen. Judd Gregg couldn't make it, but his senior staff was there to represent him.

It's nice to think that members of Congress, with their busy schedules, could make time for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Think about it, though. They jumped at BAE's invitation because this is where the rubber meets the road as far as local politics is concerned.

BAE Systems employs 1,400 people in New Hampshire, and controls upwards $80 million in federal technology contracts. It's one of the state's largest employers, and federal budget season is just around the corner. It's easy to imagine that scenes like this are going on at defense contractors all around the country.

In less than two months time, the Pentagon will unveil its fiscal 2009 budget request. BAE understandably wants to keep the money flowing for F-22s and F-35s, for which BAE Systems provides all the electronic warfare systems.

Republic or Democrat, war or anti-war, all of New Hampshire's congressional delegation wants to keep that F-22 and F-35 money flowing, too. Jobs and votes depend on it. That's taking care of constituents, and bringing home the bacon.

With all the infighting we see and hear about at campaign stops and on the campaign commercials inundating the airwaves, it's interesting -- and not just a little entertaining -- to see real politics unfold at something as ordinary as a ribbon cutting.

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Welcome to the lighter side of Military & Aerospace Electronics. This is where our staff recount tales of the strange, the weird, and the otherwise offbeat. We could put news here, but we have the rest of our Website for that. Enjoy our scribblings, and feel free to add your own opinions. You might also get to know us in the process. Proceed at your own risk.

John Keller for MAE
John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Courtney Howard for MAE Courtney E. Howard is senior editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine. She is responsible for writing news stories and feature articles for the print publication, as well as composing daily news for the magazine's Website and assembling the weekly electronic newsletter. Her features have appeared in such high-tech trade publications as Military & Aerospace Electronics, Computer Graphics World, Electronic Publishing, Small Times, and The Audio Amateur.

John McHale for MAE John McHale is executive editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, where he has been covering the defense Industry for more than dozen years. During that time he also led PennWell's launches of magazines and shows on homeland security and a defense publication and website in Europe. Mr. McHale has served as chairman of the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum and its Advisory Council since 2004. He lives in Boston with his golf clubs.