Atlantic Council Distinguished Leadership Awards

Atlantic Council Distinguished Leadership Awards
April 30, 2015

Thank you, Jim (McNerney, Jr. – chairman and chief executive officer, The Boeing Company) for that very kind introduction. Over the years, we’ve shown that our respective companies share many of the same values. It’s an honor to be introduced by a respected competitor, strong partner and friend.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, and members of The Atlantic Council. I’d like to begin by thanking Governor Huntsman and The Atlantic Council for this prestigious honor. I also want to congratulate my fellow honorees. It’s truly a privilege to share the stage with such impressive leaders.

Clearly, this prestigious award is a tribute to the accomplishments of the 112,000 men and women of Lockheed Martin and their commitment to our 100-year legacy of innovation and exceptional service to our customers. I humbly accept this award on their behalf.

It’s especially rewarding for us to be recognized by the Atlantic Council. Few organizations have done more to meet the global challenges of our time. The Atlantic Council has become an essential forum for navigating the 21st Century on issues from cyber statecraft, to Middle East peace, to the future of energy markets, to transatlantic trade and security. For decades, the Council has held fast to its founding mission to bring people together, to act in common purpose and to shape a better future. You are champions for collaboration and partnership beyond geopolitical boundaries.

This spirit of working together across borders is one that resonates with Lockheed Martin. It’s a key part of our history and the foundation of our success. In the 1950s, for example, the head of our Skunk Works advanced research center, Kelly Johnson, wanted to know what pilots needed and how we could best serve them. The pilots he talked to said they wanted more speed and more altitude. This led to the F-104 Starfighter – the most advanced warplane of its age. In fact, it was sometimes called, “The Missile with a Man in It.”

West Germany, as a new NATO member, was anxious to have this elite aircraft. However – as Kelly later wrote – for ten years after World War II, German pilots had no modern jet experience – especially supersonic. So Lockheed launched specialized training programs and sent experts to teach West German engineers how to translate Lockheed plans, technical orders and unfamiliar parts into working fighters.

The collaboration between the German government and Lockheed was so successful that other nations quickly followed suit, purchasing licensing rights for the aircraft over the ensuing decades. By 1980, when the last Starfighter was manufactured, some 14 countries – including Canada, Japan, Turkey, Italy and Taiwan – had operated F-104s, using them in a multitude of roles from interceptors and ground-attack aircraft to reconnaissance jets.

This is just one story in our long history that demonstrates the common good that comes from working together and is a model of the collaboration that has made us successful over the years. It’s the innovation that comes from collaboration that is so critical to addressing the dynamic challenges we collectively face today.

To ensure we maintain our competitive advantage on the global stage together, we must nurture and advance our spirit of innovation and collaboration. That requires two things: investment of our resources and development of our future innovators.

Let me talk to you first about the resources we need to secure our future. As you all know, the transatlantic alliance faces unprecedented threats on multiple borders – from violent extremism to violations of national sovereignty. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Marty Dempsey summarized the current situation well in his recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said the global security environment is as uncertain as he’s seen it in his 40 years of service. I couldn’t agree more.

To address these unprecedented challenges, our governments must invest in a strong national defense. So I was encouraged that NATO leaders once again reaffirmed their commitment at last year’s Wales Summit to spending two percent of GDP on defense.

Here in the U.S., budget uncertainty driven by sequestration continues to put America’s leadership at risk. As long as sequestration is on the table, we are undermining our ability to protect America’s sovereignty and defend our interests around the world – not just for today, but for tomorrow as well.

To be clear, since 2011 when the Budget Control Act was enacted, the threats to our nation and to the transatlantic alliance have grown while we continue to debate fiscal priorities. However, while we debate, current and potential adversaries are investing in asymmetric and fifth generation technologies that will enable them to challenge our values and our interests.

As a nation, we must work together to put sequestration behind us. We must find a better solution that addresses our fiscal challenges and aligns our defense spending with our national security strategy.

And as an industry, we must do our part in preparing our nation for the future threats we will face. Although research and development spending as a percentage of the U.S. defense budget has declined since 2012, Lockheed Martin has increased our R&D investment for three consecutive years to more than 750 million dollars. And industry-wide, major U.S. defense firms spent more than 4.3 billion dollars on R&D in 2014 alone.

However, maintaining our competitive advantage requires more than an investment of resources. It demands we invest in our future innovators – people like Kelly Johnson who have the right expertise to solve the increasingly difficult technological problems of the modern world. And this, too, is a challenge for each of us in this room because there simply aren’t enough students graduating in science, technology, engineering and math – or the STEM fields – to meet the increasing demand.

We need to break down barriers to get the best talent from around the world working on our toughest challenges. Working together, we can inspire the next generation to pursue careers in STEM by showing them how exciting and rewarding these jobs can be. That’s one of the reasons I’m so proud Lockheed Martin invests about half of our annual philanthropy budget into STEM programs here in the U.S. and around the world.

And while financial support is invaluable, the STEM need is much greater than just making donations. We know students respond better to role models who can inspire and mentor them in STEM fields. That’s why we create opportunities for our engineers to work with students, tell them their stories and life experiences and inspire them to become STEM innovators.

These investments can make a huge difference. For example, years ago, a Lockheed Martin employee brought her daughter to our “Young Minds at Work Day.” The little girl had the chance to hear NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless speak and as a result, she decided she wanted to work in the aerospace industry when she grew up.

A few years later, that same young woman went off to college. While there, she heard a Lockheed Martin engineer talk about the Orion space program and NASA’s mission to Mars. She quickly decided Lockheed Martin was the right company for her.

Today, Heather McKay is a Lockheed Martin Orion propulsion engineer and a STEM ambassador committed to inspiring the next generation of young people to pursue STEM careers. Heather is just one example of how each of us in this room can influence and inspire the next generation of future innovators.

The challenges I’ve discussed tonight will only grow in the years ahead – more threats to global security, more need for international collaboration and innovation and more demand for technical expertise. As we navigate these challenges and seize the opportunities they present, together we will shape a shared future – a better future.

Our collective prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic has been and continues to be propelled by sharing ideas and technology. Together we can leverage that spirit of partnership to foster security, innovation and prosperity at home and abroad.

Thank you again to The Atlantic Council for this prestigious honor.

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