Defense Business Brief: Hyten sets up shop in the private sector; Ranking the top 6 defense companies; DARPA wraps hypersonic weapon project; and more.
As the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, John Hyten worked to streamline the military’s requirements process, to speed up the process.
Now more than a year into retirement, he’s working to help commercial companies break into the defense sector.
“It's frustrating for a commercial company to figure out how to do business [with the Pentagon], but if we don't win the artificial intelligence race, and we don't win the quantum race, we're in a world of hurt as a country,” Hyten said in an interview.
Since retiring in November 2021, Hyten said he preferred to work with “more non-traditional companies—companies that are going fast.“
“I chose people that understand the need to go fast [and] understand the need for national security, but also have a commercial focus,” he said.
Hyten recently joined Pallas Advisors, the consulting firm founded by Sally Donnelly and Tony DeMartino, aides to former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, which reps a number of defense startups and also has a venture capital business.
He’s advising Blue Origin, where he is also running the company’s STEM initiatives. In addition to roles at the Space Foundation and small Colorado charities, he’s advising C3.ai and United Launch Alliance.
One of Hyten’s biggest gripes while in uniform was not being able to buy commercial products.
“We can't figure out how to get out of our own acquisition process because we try to buy commercial [products] the same way we buy defense,” he said.
Toward the end of his career, Hyten openly expressed frustration with how Pentagon bureaucracy was slowing efforts to modernize the military.
“I was so frustrated at the pace of development inside the national security apparatus through[out] my entire career,” Hyten said. “But it got more and more frustrating as I got more senior because each time I became more senior, I kept thinking that, well, now I can make the process move faster and I could never get the process going.”
Hyten lamented the years it takes to get funding for initiatives.
“I work with a number of commercial companies now, and when they see a problem, if the meeting is like Friday night, and there's a $10 million problem, on Monday morning the $10 million is in somebody's account, and work is starting,“ he said.
In the Pentagon, he said, it often takes roughly five years to get money into a budget proposal and more time for it to be approved by Congress
“In that time, in today's day and age, the entire world has changed from a technology standpoint,” he said. “We've got to figure out how to put disruptive technologies and emerging technologies into the business now and not take five years.”
He also said the existing federal acquisition regulations, the so-called FAR, already allows for more rapid acquisition, but “we only teach one way through the process—the slowest, most deliberative, most risk-averse processes,” he said.
“It doesn't have to be that way,” he said.
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Now that the big six defense companies have all reported their 2022 earnings, here’s the top six companies, ranked. It’s important to remember that this list is total revenue, both defense and commercial.
- Raytheon Technologies: $67.1 billion
- Boeing: $66.6 billion
- Lockheed Martin: $66 billion
- General Dynamics: $39.4 billion
- Northrop Grumman: $36.6
- L3Harris Technologies: $17.2 billion
L3Harris Technologies defended its plans to buy Aerojet Rocketdyne. It’s the first time executives have spoken since the deal was announced in mid-December. “It's a national asset critical to future warfare that has a leadership position in propulsion, adding exposure to new growth markets for us with munitions, space exploration, and hypersonics,” CEO Chris Kubasik said. “It brings nearly $7 billion of backlog and tailwinds driven by global demand.”
But not everyone is in favor of the acquisition. “This deal between Aerojet and L3Harris would reduce competition in the shrinking defense industry to a new low, and I encourage the FTC to oppose this dangerous transaction,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said in a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan. The senator, who has been widely critical of M&A, argues Aerojet should remain independent. She has pushed for undoing Northrop Grumman’s acquisition of Orbital ATK, saying it “has harmed competition and innovation in the solid rocket motor market and has signaled to other companies like Aerojet that their focus should be on mergers and acquisitions rather than innovation.” The Biden administration last year sued to block Lockheed Martin’s acquisition of Aerojet. Instead of going to court, Lockheed ultimately walked away from the deal.
In 2022, there were 379 mergers and acquisitions announced in the aerospace and defense sector, according to investment bank Canaccord Genuity. Of those, 11 transactions were valued at more than $1 billion each.
The U.S. implemented $51.9 billion in foreign arms sales in fiscal 2022, a nearly 50 percent increase over the prior year, according to the State Department.
Earlier this month, the Lockheed Martin-made Hypersonic Airbreathing Weapon Concept, or HAWC, missile “flew at speeds greater than Mach 5, higher than 60,000 feet, and farther than 300 nautical miles,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said in a statement. The DARPA project developed and tested two versions of the air breathing hypersonic weapons, one made by Lockheed and the other by Raytheon Technologies. “The nation’s hypersonic portfolio now has two feasible hypersonic airbreathing missile designs (Lockheed Martin and Raytheon) to improve and mature in the future,” DARPA said. The data collected during the weapon tests “is providing critical data to inform Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) hypersonic technology maturation efforts,” DARPA said.
The U.S. Air Force late last week placed a 42.3 billion order with Boeing for 15 KC-46 tankers. To date, the Air Force has ordered 128 tankers, 68 of which have been delivered and are now flying missions around the world.
Northrop Grumman has named Stephen O’Bryan corporate vice president and global Business development officer, effective Feb. 6. O’Bryan, who previously worked for L3Harris Technologies and Lockheed Martin, replaces David Perry, who is retiring on March 31.
HII has named Eric Chewning, a former chief of staff to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Pentagon industrial policy chief, to the position of executive vice president of strategy and development.
Leidos named Mike Chagnon deputy group president of the company’s defense group. The company also put Tim Freeman in charge of its Airborne Solutions business.