Lockheed has let it be known that they are investing internal effort at packaging Patriot missiles onto naval vessels (1) – this despite the existence of Standard anti-ballistic missiles that already exist, do the same job, and already have integrated software tying the weapon into the ship’s sensors and fire control system – in other words, a complete and integrated package. So, why is Lockheed looking at naval Patriots which would, at best, be redundant? Self-interest. They’re doing what’s potentially good for Lockheed. If they can sell an existing product they can make money without any great development cost.
What’s wrong with that? Nothing. Self-interest is the foundation of capitalism and free markets. However, Lockheed’s interests are not necessarily the same as the
military’s interests. In fact,
it would be rare and only coincidental if Lockheed’s interests and the
military’s interests aligned. US
Lockheed’s interest is making money. The military’s interest is combat. The point is that we, and the military, need to recognize that when we turn to industry for products and support, we’ll get whatever the company believes will generate the most money for them rather than what will provide the best combat option.
When the Navy issues its final Request For Proposal (RFP) to industry for the new frigate, Lockheed Martin and Austal, the manufacturers of the LCS, are not going to respond with a brand new frigate design – they’re going to respond with a modified (to the smallest degree they believe they can get away with) LCS. Why? Because that’s what’s in their best self-interest. It’s how they can make the most money.
When the government initiates the next F-35 program, the manufacturer isn’t going to respond with the most cost effective and efficient manufacturing program – they’re going to respond with the program that is the least likely to be able to be killed off just as Lockheed Martin set up the elaborate fifty sate/one hundred country disbursed manufacturing model that they knew Congress would be unwilling to kill due to the distributed jobs aspect.
When a manufacturer “tests” a developing weapon system, they’re not going to test it under combat conditions to see how it really works. That’s not in their self-interest. They’re going to test it in a contrived scenario carefully calculated to make the system appear as good as possible.
is asked about a potential new destroyer, they’re
not going to propose a brand new design – they’re going to propose a modified
Burke because that would be in their best self-interest. Bath
Consider all the ship type variants that Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has suggested for roles ranging from a frigate to ballistic missile defense (BMD) to amphibious assault, among others. Each was based on – you guessed it – the LPD-17. What’s the odds that the optimum frigate, BMD, and assault ship are all met by the same LPD-17 basic design? Of course they’re not! HII is proposing what they can make money on, not what would be the most combat effective solution. HII’s interests do not align with the military’s.
The point in this is that we, and the military, need to keep this self-interest concept firmly in mind as we deal with the defense industry. We need to run everything we hear, see, or procure from industry through the cynical filter of “what’s in it for them?” and recognize that what we’ll get is a sub-optimum response or product that serves industry’s interests not ours. That means that if we want an optimum service or product we have to drive the acquisition process and not leave it to industry.
When I hear comments like the those from former CNO Greenert, and now Richardson, saying that they can’t wait to see what industry “gives” us next, I cringe. Industry will give us what is in their best self-interest rather than what we need. Sure, industry will make some attempt to align their interests with the military’s just because doing so will increase the odds of them getting what they want: money. That alignment, however, will be as minimal as possible.
There’s nothing wrong with inviting industry to make suggestions as long as that process of research and investigation is divorced from actual acquisition.
On a related historical note, the Spruance was the first ship design that the Navy threw completely out to industry. While the Spruance turned out to be a fine design, there was no guarantee that it would. Witness the more recent LCS which was designed with minimal [useful] input from the Navy and wound up being an unmitigated disaster.
The military needs to stop throwing out open-ended invites to industry which allows industry to pick the product and, instead, start driving the acquisition process. That means re-establishing in-house expertise, generating extensive and precise requirements, and demanding the exact product that will provide the best combat performance. If the military doesn’t have a better idea of what’s needed than industry then we need to clean house on military leadership and start over. The military needs to take back the acquisition process from industry.
(1)Breaking Defense website, “Lockheed Studies Sea-Launched Patriot PAC-3 & New 6-Foot Missile”,
J. Freedberg, Jr., Sydney 9-Aug-2017,