Why does my employer, Jane's Information Group, exist?
This is not an academic question. It is now public knowledge that the company founded 109 years ago by Fred T. Jane has been put up for sale by its current owners: the Woodbridge company. The winning bidder should be named within a few months, and until then the fortunes of my colleagues and our products are really anybody's guess.
I, myself, will not be with the company when the new owners are announced. I have already accepted an offer to re-join my former colleagues from The Flight Group, where I will serve as Senior Editor, starting on April 23. (This new arrangement will have profound implications for the future of this blog, which my new employers are very eager to promote and support ... but more on that later.)
Despite my pending departure, I will continue to be concerned about the future of Jane's, with it's invaluable stockpile of open source information on the world's militaries, weapons and arms makers. My hope is that the new owners realize they are not just sitting on a pile of "content", but rather a treasure of vital data that shouldn't be sold piecemeal for short-term profit.
The real brilliance of Jane's is the ability to open a book or a magazine and read highly detailed information about all kinds of things that go "boom". Keeping such information public and outside the domain of the world's military and intelligence communities is an imperative for peace and security.
Fred T. Jane was surely aware of the national security implications of the products he launched. I will quote from his biography, "Fred T. Jane: An Eccentric Visionary":
"The adoption of steam by the French Navy had caused the first of many naval panics back in the 1840s. The changes of the next 50 years gave rise to a whole series of more or less serious war scares. Often these were based on ignorance, partly of 'enemy' intentions and partly their capabilities. ... There was at that time no means of comparing the real fighting value of potentially hostile fleets, containing as they did a hotchpotch of more or less obsolescent designs. Contemporary war stories exploited the confusion to maximise public paranoia, their hostile squadrons often including vessels later dismissed by [Jane's] Fighting Ships as of "limited fighting value".