As Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Hyten worked to streamline the Army’s requirements process, in order to speed up the process.
Now more than a year after his retirement, he works to help commercial companies break into the defense industry.
“It’s frustrating for a business enterprise to figure out how to do business [with the Pentagon]but if we don’t win the AI race, and we don’t win the quantum race, we’re in for a world of pain as a country,” Hyten said in an interview.
Since retiring in November 2021, Hyten said he prefers to work with “more non-traditional businesses – fast-moving businesses.”
“I chose people who understand the need to go fast [and] understand the need for national security, but also have a business orientation,” he said.
Hyten recently joined Pallas Advisors, the advisory firm founded by Sally Donnelly and Tony DeMartino, aides to former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, which represents a number of defense startups and also has a venture capital business.
He advises Blue Origin, where he also leads the company’s STEM initiatives. In addition to his roles at the Space Foundation and small Colorado charities, he advises C3.ai and United Launch Alliance.
One of Hyten’s biggest gripes in uniform was not being able to buy trade goods.
“We don’t know how to get out of our own acquisition process because we’re trying to buy [products] the same way we buy defense,” he said.
Towards the end of his career, Hyten openly expressed his frustration with how Pentagon bureaucracy was slowing down the military’s modernization efforts.
“I was so frustrated with the pace of development within the national security apparatus across[out] my whole career,” Hyten said. “But it got more and more frustrating as I got older because every time I got older I kept thinking that, well, now I can move the process along faster and I couldn’t never move it forward.”
Hyten lamented the years it takes to secure funding for initiatives.
“I work with a number of trading companies now, and when they see a problem, if the meeting is like Friday night, and there’s a 10 million dollar problem, Monday morning, the 10 million dollars are in someone’s account, and the work begins,” he said.
At the Pentagon, he said, it often takes about five years to get money into a budget proposal and longer for it to be approved by Congress.
“At that time, nowadays, the whole world has changed from a technological point of view,” he said. “We need to figure out how to integrate disruptive technologies and emerging technologies into the business now and not take five years.”
He also said that existing federal acquisition regulations, the so-called FARs, already allow for faster acquisition, but “we only teach one path through the process – the slower processes, most deliberative and least risky,” he said.
“It doesn’t have to be like that,” he said.
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Now that the six major defense companies have all reported their 2022 earnings, here are the top six companies, ranked. It is important to remember that this list is the total income, 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 has defended its plan to buy Aerojet Rocketdyne. This is the first time the leaders have spoken since the deal was announced in mid-December. “It is a vital national asset for future warfare that holds a leadership position in propulsion, adding exposure to new growth markets for us with munitions, space exploration and hypersonics,” said CEO Chris Kubasik. “It brings nearly $7 billion in backlog and tailwinds driven by global demand.”
But not everyone is in favor of the acquisition. “This agreement between Aerojet and L3Harris would reduce competition in the declining defense industry to a new low, and I encourage the FTC to oppose this dangerous transaction,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D- Mass., in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission. President Lina Khan. The senator, who has been widely critical of mergers and acquisitions, argues that Aerojet should remain independent. She lobbied to reverse Northrop Grumman’s acquisition of Orbital ATK, saying it “has hurt competition and innovation in the solid rocket engine market and signaled other companies like Aerojet that ‘they should focus on mergers and acquisitions rather than innovation’. Last year, the Biden administration filed a lawsuit to block Lockheed Martin’s acquisition of Aerojet. Instead of going to court, Lockheed eventually backed out of the deal.
In 2022, there were 379 mergers and acquisitions announced in the aerospace and defense sector, according to investment bank Canaccord Genuity. Of these, 11 deals were valued at over $1 billion each.
The United States made $51.9 billion in arms sales abroad in fiscal year 2022, an increase of nearly 50% over the prior year, according to the State Department.
Earlier this month, Lockheed Martin’s hypersonic breathing weapon concept, or HAWC, the missile “flew at speeds in excess of Mach 5, at over 60,000 feet and over 300 nautical miles,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said in a statement. The DARPA project developed and tested two versions of the hypersonic air-breathing weapons, one manufactured by Lockheed and the other by Raytheon Technologies. “The country’s hypersonic portfolio now has two feasible air-breathing hypersonic missile designs (Lockheed Martin and Raytheon) to improve and mature in the future,” DARPA said. Data collected during weapons testing “provides critical data to inform the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) hypersonic technology maturation efforts,” DARPA said.
The US Air Force last week placed an order for 42.3 billion with Boeing for 15 KC-46 tankers. To date, the Air Force has ordered 128 tankers, of which 68 have been delivered and are now flying missions around the world.
Northrop Grumman named Stephen O’Bryan Corporate Vice President and Head of Global Business Development, effective February 6. O’Bryan, who previously worked for L3Harris Technologies and Lockheed Martin, replaces David Perry, who retires on March 31.
HII named Eric Chewingformer chief of staff to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and chief of industrial policy for the Pentagon, as executive vice president of strategy and development.
Leidos named Michael Chagnon group vice president of the corporate advocacy group. The company has also put Tim Freeman in charge of its Airborne Solutions activity.