Defense Program Collaboration: A Supplier's Perspective

Defense Program Collaboration: A Supplier's Perspective

The U.S. military has unleashed a powerful force over the past few decades by empowering its vast network of highly qualified suppliers to bring their best ideas to the table. A shift has occurred away from the Department of Defense and the armed services dictating key performance parameters and defense contractors simply responding to those specifications. What we see now is a more collaborative environment where the DOD sets expectations and the OEMs and suppliers come back with innovative solutions—solutions the DOD may not have even imagined.

More than ever before, our military leaders expect—or rather demand—that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and first-tier suppliers like Honeywell engage our best people and use our most efficient processes to define the “art of the possible” for new technologies and weapons systems.

These days, we’re often given broad and aspirational performance targets for new development programs. The OEMs and tiered suppliers work together to come up with the best possible solution to meet the needs of the military, the warfighter in the field and the American taxpayer.

This fundamental change to the procurement process has created a highly competitive environment in which innovation and collaboration across the supply chain are paramount. From Honeywell’s perspective, this new procurement framework is ideal, because we’re no longer simply responding to government specifications. Instead, we’re able to pull out all the stops and develop the best solution that today’s technology will enable—all while working in close collaboration with the OEMs, other suppliers and the military services themselves.

For example, when it launched the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) as part of the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, the Army established performance requirements around operational attributes like combat radius, cruise speed, internal and external payload, and cost. They left it up to members of the two competing teams of defense contractors—led by OEMs Boeing-Sikorsky and Bell Helicopter—to figure out how to meet or exceed those requirements. As a result, the Army is getting two amazing aircraft to evaluate.

This new, more collaborative approach to procurement also has changed the way military development programs are funded. In the past, the Pentagon typically paid for research and development, specified the platforms and systems it needed, and worked closely with defense contractors on developing product specifications. But today,

 the DoD expects its suppliers to shoulder some of the risk by using their own R&D dollars to help develop new technology solutions and deliver them faster and cheaper.  And, with the renewed use of Other Transaction Authority (OTA) and Middle Tier of Acquisition pathway the DoD enables accelerated avenues for capability maturation and production programs.

Effective collaboration, coordination and communication between partners at all levels of the OEM-supplier value chain is critical as teams stretch their capabilities to achieve one of the primary goals of the military’s collaborative acquisition strategy—the need for speed.

To maintain, and in some cases regain, competitive advantage over adversaries, the Pentagon is focused on accelerating the weapons system development and acquisition process. Through collaboration, defense contractors applied cutting-edge technologies and processes—like digital engineering and advanced prototyping—to collapse the typical development schedule and deliver better results in a fraction of the time.

Of course, speed is not the only objective of a more collaborative approach to fielding new and better aircraft and weapons systems for the military services. These military-industrial partnerships are dedicated to developing cost effective capabilities that improve mission effectiveness and keep American warfighters out of harm’s way.

As problem-solvers for the Pentagon, OEMs and their supply-chain partners are uniquely positioned to efficiently apply leading-edge innovations and integrate discriminating technologies to help us to win the fight. That often involves leveraging the extensive capabilities of the commercial aerospace marketplace. Use of commercial, off-the-shelf equipment enables the military to take advantage of readily available technology and software that has been proven in the civilian world.

In another example of collaboration, Honeywell is working closely with the Army and Boeing to help extend the service life of a legendary warrior, the CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Under the Army’s Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA),we’re now testing the latest version of the T55 turboshaft engine, which will enable the CH-47 to fly farther and carry more weight under challenging operating conditions than ever before.

We’re also working with General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), and PM Abrams to enhance the Army’s Predictive and Prognostics Maintenance (PPMx) capabilities for the AGT1500 turbine engine, which is the main powerplant for the M1 Abrams series of tanks. Using advanced data analytics, the PPMx initiative is designed to bring the Army’s maintenance process into the 21st century by automating many maintenance activities that soldiers perform manually today.

From our specific perspective as a first-tier supplier on many programs like these, Honeywell clearly sees the value in forming more collaborative partnerships with the military, prime contractors and other suppliers across the value chain. We have seen first-hand how this approach can reduce cycle time to move advanced capabilities quickly from the drawing board to the hands of American warfighters.

Career History

1993 Graduate of the US Air Force Academy. Cross commissioned into the US Army. Spent 20+ years in various leadership positions in Army Aviation. Rod held command and key leadership positions at all levels up through Brigade with 6 operational deployments (4 in combat). Master Aviator qualified in AH-64D, OH-58, UH-1, and multiple civilian FW aircraft.

Post retirement, ran The Army C-12 contact for L-3 Communications supporting maintenance and depot activities for 190 Army FW aircraft across 85 sites worldwide. In 2014, became COO for a small aerospace startup (BDA Inc) focusing on developing a green energy UAV utilizing see and avoid artificial intelligence.

Since 2016, Rod leads Honeywell’s US Army Business and is a Honeywell Ambassador to Huntsville.

Rod lives in McMullen Cove with his Wife (Alison) and two kids (Colin 17, Brynna 15).

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