The great unknown; Leidos CEO on COVID-19; F-35 lines reopen, and more.

The new “normal” — if we can even call it that — is upon us. Essentially, anyone who can work from home is doing so to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Listening to the advice from public health officials, medical experts and politicians, it seems we’re going to be in this predicament for some time.

How long? Who knows, but as a person of habit and routine — and someone who lives life by schedule and structure — I’ve found the current predicament a tough adjustment. I’m sure it’s been the same for many of you.

Globally, we’re all in an unknown state. The restaurant, airline, hospitality, you-name-it industries are in crisis mode, are already furloughing or laying off workers. Those in the national security sector — building weapons or performing tasks and functions that require them to report to a government or industry facility — will likely continue going to work.

Textron Aviation said it would furlough 7,000 workers for four weeks. Airbus has paused production in France and Space. Boeing, whose stock is currently under $100 for the first time since 2013, has asked for at least $60 billion from the U.S. government to protect itself and thousands of its suppliers. Several defense executives this week pointed to the 2008 U.S. bailout of the automotive industry as being a successful investment that saved hundreds of thousands of jobs…and the companies eventually paid back those loans.

I’ve exchanged many phone calls, text messages, and emails with defense employees over the past week (predominantly, folks outside the classified and manufacturing sectors). Some feel they can’t accomplish all their tasks, especially those that would normally involve personal interaction. Others feel overwhelmed by a spike in emails. Others say it’s difficult to manage work while taking care of children whose schools or daycares are closed.

My wife and I don’t have kids (we’ll likely get a dog to keep us company) but many friends, family and sources do, and they’ve been juggling the impossible task of taking care of them while working simultaneously.

Several people predicted that working from home could have lasting effects, and even improve efficiency, when things get back to normal. Quarantine has shown that some daily meetings can be shortened or simply eliminated.

“One thing I’m excited about here is the possibility that we may find some better ways of operating day-to-day utilizing some of this incredible communications capability that have, [which] may take us to a new normal where we find more efficient ways of accomplishing our business,” Adm. Charles Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command, said during a telephone briefing with reporters on Tuesday.

There are still a lot of questions we don’t have answers to, like how the Pentagon plans to manage contracts and oversee companies whose employees might be ordered to shelter in place.

Another big concern: there’s no longer a separation between work and personal life. The laptop or mobile phone is always on. Many folks I spoke with feel a sense of duty since what they do support service members at war or helps protect the average citizens.

But remember to take some time yourselves, go for a walk, read a book, binge watch that television show you've been wanting to watch for years. (For me it’s HBO’s “Ballers.”) Call or FaceTime someone you haven’t talked to in a long time.

I know you typically read this newsletter each week for insight and analysis of the latest trends in the defense industry, military spending and acquisition — and not my thoughts on life. Thanks for reading and I’ll close with this: Please stop hoarding food and toilet paper! OK, I’m off the soapbox. Stay healthy out there.

Welcome

You’ve reached the Defense One Global Business Brief by Marcus Weisgerber. Please reach out with your experiences throughout coronavirus quarantine. Send along your tips and feedback to mweisgerber@defenseone.com or @MarcusReports. Check out the Global Business Brief archive here, and tell your friends to subscribe!


From Defense One

New CEO Could Change the Way Lockheed Martin Does Business // Marcus Weisgerber

The selection of outsider James Taiclet hints at a new approach to its Pentagon work.

F-35 Factories In Italy, Japan Are Reopening After Closing for Coronavirus // Marcus Weisgerber

An assembly plant in Japan is already open and another in Italy is expected to reopen on Wednesday.

US Air Force Flew Half a Million Coronavirus Test Swabs From Italy to Tennessee // Marcus Weisgerber

Similar missions to distribute COVID-19 test kits are expected in coming days.

When Your Work Is Classified, 'Work From Home' Doesn't Work // Marcus Weisgerber

And that's just the start of the problems for defense employees, contract workers, and their bosses who are trying to take coronavirus precautions.


How Leidos Is Responding to COVID-19

About one-fifth of Leidos’ 36,000 employees regularly work remotely. That percentage has increased in recent days; on Monday, more than 8,000 workers logged into the company’s virtual private network. On Tuesday, about 75 percent of its headquarters staff was working remotely.

As for its employees around the world: “It varies customer by customer, contract by contract and site by site,” Roger Krone, Leidos chairman and CEO, said in a Tuesday interview

Last week, the company directed employees to telework if possible and to avoid meetings of 10 or more. The company has encouraged employees to use video conferencing.

“Data Analytics artificial intelligence software, computer science programming, in many ways lends itself to a dispersed and remote workforce,” Krone said of some of the company’s specialties. “We already had the infrastructure available to have people telework, and we have a teleworking agreement which people have to sign.”

Like many companies right now, Leidos has a working group meeting daily to assess the latest COVID-19 developments and the company has detailed plans in place to respond if and when an employee contracts the virus.

As of Tuesday, Krone expected COVID-19 to have a four- to six-week impact.

“We might have employees who can't get to work [or] customers who won't allow telecommuting,” Krone said. We have some policies in place where they can take paid time off. We have an employee foundation where we can grant them stipends.

Canceled

  • The Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, (postponed)
  • SO/LIC in DC (postponed)
  • Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space in the DC suburbs  (canceled)
  • GEOINT in Tampa (canceled)
  • Army Aviation Association of America in Nashville (canceled)

Make sure you take a look at The Prognosis, up-to-the-minute tracking page of how COVID-19 is affecting national security. 

More About the 500K Coronavirus Test Swabs Flown in From Italy

The U.S. Air Force quietly flew 500,000 coronavirus test swabs from Italy to the United States earlier this week. We asked, and weren’t told, why was the military used for this delivery? We appeared to receive an answer later that night in this New York Times article about a national shortage of swabs. “The main manufacturer of the swabs, Copan, is an Italian company whose manufacturing plant is in Northern Italy, a region that has itself been hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak. It says it has ramped up manufacturing to deal with the extraordinary demand for an otherwise unassuming product to which many doctors gave little thought, until now.” Read on, here.

Air Force Ready to Move Coronavirus Cargo

From an Air Mobility Command spokesman: “AMC is postured to support additional requests to deliver COVID-19 testing supplies in the coming days and weeks. Additionally, Headquarters AMC recently activated a 24/7 Crisis Battle Staff and Operational Planning Team to deliberately assess and plan for COVID-19 impacts to the AMC mission and its ability to execute missions like the one above. Through their assessment of rapidly evolving scenarios, revised travel restrictions and updated health protection guidance, AMC leaders have issued prudent guidance to mobility commanders and aircrews to preserve the nation’s operational capability to meet its global mobility requirements in support of the Joint Force, Allies and partners.”

In Non-COVID-19 News

The Pentagon “has not answered critical questions” about the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter logistics system intended to replace the current Autonomic Logistics Information System, a new Government Accountability Office report warns.

The Army this week chose Bell and a Sikorsky/Boeing team to develop Future Long Range Assault Aircraft, known as FLRAA, which will replace the venerable Black Hawk. More about that here. Separately, a contract award for the Army's Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, known as FARA, is expected soon as well.

The U.S. Air Force has deployed the Leonardo DRS Distributed Aperture Infrared Countermeasure advanced aircraft protection system on its HH-60G rescue helicopters, the company said in a March 18 emailed statement. The project is in response to a joint urgent operational needs statement.

Making Moves

Boeing will name Wendy Livingston, vice president, corporate human resources, the interim senior vice president of human resources when Heidi Capozzi, who is currently in that job, departs the company in early April.