Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, says it has hired more than 8,300 employees since March, when coronavirus began shutting down businesses across the United States.
The numbers are in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which has seen tens of millions of jobs disappear over the past four months. Lockheed, in a statement Friday, said it plans to hire a total of 12,000 employees this year.
“In this volatile environment, it is more important than ever before to maintain the operations of the defense industrial base and support our men and women in uniform,” Lockheed’s CEO and President Jim Taiclet said in the statement.
The defense industry has been somewhat of an anomaly throughout the coronavirus pandemic; companies throughout the sector have hired thousands of new employees to work on Pentagon projects started or enlarged by increased defense spending over the past two years.
Speaking at Fincantieri Marinette Marine on Thursday, President Trump touted the company’s plans to hire 1,000 shipyard workers, the result of a $5.5 billion Navy frigate deal.
In March, as the coronavirus rapidly spread across parts of the United States, the Trump administration deemed defense-industry workers essential, allowing many firms to remain open amid widespread stay-at-home orders. Still, others shut down operations, and though many of these have reopened, Pentagon officials say deliveries of some weapons and parts remain slow. Companies have struggled to get parts from suppliers in the U.S. and overseas.
“[W]e have seen inefficiencies across most programs,” Ellen Lord, the defense undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment said during a Monday briefing at the Pentagon. “COVID-19 is shutting down defense manufacturing facilities and production lines, disrupting supply chains, and distressing the financial stability of the companies DoD relies on to protect the nation.
“DOD continues to partner with our industry partners to do everything possible to keep programs on-schedule and to minimize the cost and schedule impacts,” Lord continued. “This is obviously a dynamic situation and the overall impacts will not be completely known for a while, as we work through how we operate over the next few months.”
Lockheed also says it has sent suppliers early payments of more than $1.1 billion, the result of the Pentagon paying companies more money up front to soften the supply-chain hiccups that have slowed weapons manufacturing. Collectively, defense companies have sent billions of dollars to small or at-risk suppliers.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon began bailing out companies — sending hundreds of millions of dollars to firms that have seen large parts of their business dry up amid the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, it sent $187 million to five companies.