Two years into his tenure as CEO of Lockheed Martin
This year will see a slight drop in revenue due to timing issues on major contracts, but ValueLine’s investment survey indicates that by 2025-27, business revenue will drop by $67 billion. at $84 billion.
Meanwhile, Lockheed’s dividends per share continue to climb steadily, having more than doubled since Taiclet’s predecessor, Marillyn Hewson, took over the helm of the company nearly a decade ago.
Lockheed remains the world’s largest producer of tactical aircraft, military space systems and many other defense products, a status it is unlikely to relinquish for many years.
But as Taiclet added the position of president to his titles and became more comfortable in his role, a subtle shift began to take hold at Lockheed Martin. Having worked with the company for many years, I’m struck by the change in tone.
Traditionally, senior corporate executives have tended to be defense industry lifers who are focused on financial performance and are reluctant to articulate big ideas that might cause them to cross paths with their federal clients. .
Taiclet is not a product of the traditional defense industry. Although he started his career as an Air Force pilot and later held several high-level positions at companies like Allied Signal and United Technologies
And he didn’t just run it, he transformed it, increasing the company’s market capitalization 50-fold while transforming it into a global player in the wireless communications industry.
Harvard Business School ranked Taiclet among the world’s most successful CEOs seven times during his American Tower run, so by the time Marillyn Hewson identified him as a suitable successor, he was considered a visionary in the technology sector.
Part of what Hewson saw was that traditional barriers between defense and commercial technology were breaking down, and defense activity in the future would be largely driven by dual-use technologies.
This change was made official the same month that Taiclet took over as CEO of Lockheed in June 2020, when the Pentagon revealed a reorganization of its technology priorities going forward.
Going forward, the military’s top technology priorities would be microelectronics and 5G communications, followed by a host of other mostly dual-purpose innovations such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and quantum science.
Under Taiclet, the company continued to invest heavily in all of the Pentagon’s priority technologies except biotechnology, and in some areas such as hypersonics and space, it is the main player.
However, his stint in the commercial sector has convinced Taiclet that digital networking will be fundamental to deterring or defeating enemies in the future, so this is where he places most emphasis.
The company’s rubric for Taiclet’s emerging vision is “21st Century Security,” meaning the integration of systems operating in all areas of warfare through resilient, high-capacity networks.
This represents a major departure from the siled operating practices of the past in which the various combatant communities rarely communicated effectively, but it is entirely consistent with what the military calls “joint operations across all domains.”
But Taiclet’s vision goes far beyond the Pentagon’s latest thoughts on networked warfare, as he believes the only way to get the joint force to where it needs to be quickly is through partnerships with commercial technology companies.
It is, after all, where most of the technologies defining the information age were born, and Taiclet is not reinventing the wheel: he wants to take what the commercial world has to offer and adapt it to the needs soldiers.
Lockheed has therefore recently entered into a series of partnerships with companies like Intel
If Taiclet’s vision is realized, one day in the not too distant future, military systems in all areas of warfare will be continuously linked to generate the best information and optimal effects to meet military challenges.
Once that happens, the buildup of US military capabilities can continue at a much faster pace than is currently possible.
An early example of how the concept of 21st century security could come to fruition is reflected, surprisingly, in an initiative launched by Lockheed Martin to defeat the growing threat of wildfires around the world.
Megafires that destroy a hundred thousand acres of forest have become much more common than they once were, and fire seasons are getting longer.
Lockheed has developed an approach to fighting these fires that attacks conflagrations using satellites, networks, artificial intelligence and other innovations in an integrated, real-time way.
The proposed system not only achieves superior firefighting capability quickly, it predicts where fires might occur and detects them when they occur, using systems like a lightning mapper already resident on weather satellites. Americans.
Working with Nvidia, the company will use artificial intelligence to simulate and visualize major fires, creating a digital twin that shows firefighters how they might spread.
And it’s developing a business model that provides firefighting as a service to financially challenged communities, dramatically improving the speed and accuracy of efforts.
The concept is still in its infancy, but it illustrates how dual-use technologies and business partnerships can improve responses to emerging hazards.
While Taiclet’s vision will remain largely focused on traditional military concerns, his approach to future security challenges is a distinctly untraditional way of doing business.
Lockheed Martin is a contributor to my think tank and a long-time consulting client.