Jeff Bezos, whose Blue Origin rockets may one day hoist military payloads, came to the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, and Cyber conference this week to talk about innovation. Specifically, the world’s richest man told his audience, the military should experiment more if it wants to innovate.
“To be innovative, you have to experiment. If you want to have more invention, you need to do more experiments per week, per month, per year, per decade. It’s that simple. You cannot invent without experimenting,” the Amazon founder said.
“Here’s the other thing about experiments: lots of them fail. If you know it’s going to work in advance, it is not an experiment,” he said. “What happens in big organizations … is that we start to confuse experimentation with operational excellence.”
The Pentagon has been looking to experiment more, instead of choosing new weapons from paper proposals that typically ended up costing more money and taking more time to develop because of unforeseen projects, which in some cases might have been detected through experimentation.
So far, it seems like Congress is in favor of prototyping and experimenting. Recently, the Pentagon has been investing in prototypes for hypersonic weapons. The question becomes: where will they invest next?
You’ve reached the Defense One Global Business Brief by Marcus Weisgerber. I’m back, married, and much relaxed. Thanks to Deputy Editor Brad Peniston for filling in these past two weeks. Lucky for me, I returned from my honeymoon just in time for this week’s Air Force Association Air Space Cyber conference. Thanks for reading and keep the feedback coming to: email@example.com or @MarcusReports. Check out the Global Business Brief archive here, and tell your friends to subscribe!
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One-on-One with Lockheed’s New Aero Boss
Just four months after being named the No. 2 at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Michele Evans is about to take over as executive vice president of prestigious division. We chatted this week at the AFA conference.
Q. What is your focus?
A. “My focus is sustainment. Obviously we have a commitment to get to an $80 million jet. We are absolutely on track for that for 2020. While production [is still a] focus, we’re shifting a significant focus to sustainment and modernization. Definitely still have a lot to go on F-35 — continue to expand international partnerships. Volume drives price. As we continue to increase the volume on F-35, we are focused on getting [the price down] to $80 million. We have a challenge to get to $80 million. We’re going to get to $80 million. We’re not going to stop at $80 million.”
Q. How do you change the perception of the F-35?
A. It’s all about getting the facts out there and letting the facts speak for themselves. We’re through [system development and demonstration]. We’re hopefully closing on initial operational capability here [for the U.S. Navy F-35C] shortly. I think the jet is starting to speak for itself operationally. If you talk to any of the users, the capability it brings … from an [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] capability, a command-and-control capability. You’re hearing all buzzwords of multidomain. F-35 has a big, big role in multi-domain. My experience with platforms is: get it in the hands of the pilots. They’re going to use this platform in ways we never designed it for.
Q. A few years ago, Lockheed began moving F-16 production to South Carolina. How’s that going?
A. We’re in the final throes of bringing up the production line in Greenville. We won the Bahrain contract back a few years ago for 16 aircraft. That’s really going to be the first production volume through Greenville. Recently, Slovakia selected us for F-16s — that’s another 14 aircraft. I’m excited about the portfolio potential. We’re talking to four, five other countries that are looking at F-16, and obviously, India looking at a quantity of 100 is a great opportunity. We easily could be staring at 300 to 400 more F-16s being built and that’s on top of the upgrades that we see across the globe.
VPOTUS Drops by AFA
Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise appearance at the AFA’s Air Space Cyber conference at National Harbor, Maryland. After Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, wrapped up a speech, Pence popped up on stage right to wish the service a happy 71st birthday. He then headed downstairs to see some exhibits, accompanied by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, AFA President Larry Spencer, and AFA Chairman Whit Peters.
What companies did Pence visit? I spotted him at Aerojet Rocketdyne, likely of interest because Pence chairs the National Space Council. The Veep then made his way to Lockheed Martin, where he checked out an F-35 simulator. (Pence’s son is a Marine Corps pilot.) After that, he visited Boeing, where he posed for a pictures in front of a full-scale model of the pilot training jet being pitched to the Air Force. Pence ultimately made his way toward the back of the exhibit hall, and out of sight of your correspondent.
Why? The vice president is the highest-ranking U.S. government official to stop by AFA’s annual conference since at least 2006. Perhaps it’s because of the friendship that Pence and Wilson have forged while traveling and working together on the Space Council. The two were all smiles as they made their way around the exhibits flocked by staff and Secret Service. And it’s no secret the Trump administration has a business- and military-friendly agenda and this is one of the largest trade shows in the DC region. The very biggest arrives next month: the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army at the convention center downtown. Folks here wondered whether Trump might show for some photo ops among the tanks.
Contract Awards Expected Soon
The Air Force could award the $15 billion T-X contract for 350 pilot training jets as soon as this week, according to defense and industry sources. The contestants: Boeing-Saab, Lockheed Martin-KAI and Leonardo.
The service is also expected, at long last, to award a contract by month’s end to replace its 1970s-era UH-1 Huey helicopters, which fly security missions over intercontinental ballistic missile fields in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming. The aircraft are also used in Washington to fly around VIPs. In the event of a national emergency, they would be used to evacuate cabinet officials and members of Congress. The field: Sikorsky (Lockheed), Boeing-Leonardo and Sierra Nevada.
New Tactical Drone
From Boeing’s Insitu comes the Integrator Extended Range, which company officials say can fly over a target 200 nautical miles away for 10 hours while streaming video back to a command.
The Coffee Mug Everyone is Talking About
The Air Force passed out blue coffee mugs to select attendees at this week’s conference. ONe side bears the Air Force logo; the other: “386” — aka the number of operational squadrons leaders say they need to execute the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy. The bottom of every mug (your correspondent checked a dozen of them) had a small sticky section, presumably the residue from a “Made in China” sticker. (We’re having fun imagining Chinese military intelligence puzzling over the meaning of 386.)
CRS Enters the Public Domain
For decades, there has been no public repository for the ever-handy Congressional Research Service reports. Until now. A new law requires CRS to post all new reports on a website that went live Tuesday. Look for older reports to be posted over the coming months.
Phil Musser, who led Boeing’s communications in Chicago is leaving the company after a year in the job. Anne Toulouse, Boeing vice president of Global Brand Management, will replace him on an interim basis until a permanent successor is named, the company said in a statement.
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. George Smith has been nominated for his third star and to become Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ senior military assistant. Smith is currently a special assistant to the director of the Joint Staff.
Chandra Brown has been named executive director (effective Sept. 26) of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute. Brown has served as a deputy assistant secretary of manufacturing at the Commerce Department.