Bringing the digital technologies that the U.S. technology sector is adept at innovating and advancing to bear on the platforms and systems that the defense industry excels at requires the major defense prime contractors do business in new ways but also means that the government and industry have to partner unlike they do now, James Taiclet, chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin [LMT], said on Wednesday.

Taiclet, who took the helm of the nation’s largest defense contractor in June 2020, shortly thereafter outlined his 21st Century Warfighting concept that marries the physical platforms, such as the latest aircraft and weapons that the defense industry is known for, with current digital technologies, such as 5G and artificial intelligence that the nation’s high tech sector develops and turns into a range of commercial products, to create networked effects on the battlefield that can dramatically increase defense capabilities by better leveraging existing platforms, sensors and weapons “beyond the sum of the parts.”

In a discussion with John Hamre, the head of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former defense staffer in Congress and Pentagon executive, Taiclet dove deeper on what it will take to achieve his vision.

Already, Lockheed Martin has defined 14 mission sets that its customers need and is developing technology roadmaps to create network effects across platforms toward meeting these missions by upgrading the platforms every six months and “after three to five years to then create a holistic overall capability that you didn’t have before,” Taiclet said. Already, the company has extensive draft roadmaps for surface warfare, counter-air, and integrated air and missile defense, he said.

Taiclet has publicly discussed some of the key technologies that are behind his vision, including AI and machine learning, autonomy as scale,, hypersonics, multi-domain operations, cyber and electronic warfare, and directed energy.

The goal is to bring these network effects into the many existing platforms in use at “the speed of Silicon Valley” versus the five to 10 years it currently takes through traditional procurement practices, he said.

“If we can create an open system architecture and build a technology roadmap, we’ll be able to connect the logical things that make sense to do over a period of time and rapidly increase our capabilities versus a typical procurement where you get requirements,” Taiclet said.

Lockheed Martin has already been demonstrating the benefits of network effects on its platforms for some of its defense customers, he said, highlighting a demonstration last year with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command that integrated improved Patriot Advanced Capability-3 air and missile defense missiles with Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missiles and fire control systems, and Aegis radars to extend and enhance the defensive perimeter for aircraft carriers and ships at sea.

Taiclet joined Lockheed Martin from American Tower Corp. [AMT], where he was the chief of a company that provides infrastructure for wireless communications worldwide. He was also on the board of Lockheed Martin, was an Air Force pilot, and worked in the aerospace industry for Honeywell [HON] and the Pratt & Whitney segment of Raytheon Technologies [RTX], combining experiences that situate him well to bridge the defense enterprise and the commercial technology sector.

To take advantage of what the commercial sector has to offer, Lockheed Martin has begun hosting summits with CEOs and their top engineers and chief technology officers from U.S.-based companies in semiconductors, distributed cloud computing, mobile phone operators, and network and computing to learn from, and partner with, them, Taiclet said.

So far, the “uptake” from these CEOs has been good and the technical teams from Lockheed Martin and the commercial companies “are now looking at our roadmaps figuring out what type of technology that semiconductor company has or that gaming company may have that we could insert into our roadmap to make us faster,” he said.

Right now, this effort is Lockheed Martin-centric but Taiclet said, once an open architecture is established, his company wants to include its “industry peers” to accelerate the marriage of the defense industry and high-tech companies to benefit government customers.

The commercial companies that Lockheed Martin has been meeting with have made it clear they don’t want to have to deal to closely with traditional government acquisition practices and regulations, and so would rather have Lockheed Martin be the “bridge” to bringing their capabilities into defense systems while avoiding the government contracting morass, he said.

To get these rapid, recurring upgrades into military platforms, Lockheed Martin needs to sort out how it can turn this model into a revenue stream, Taiclet said. The Silicon Valley firms will license a patent, at a cost, to the defense contractors, and the defense primes need to “figure how to translate that cost we incur on a licensing basis to a DD 250 sale of an aircraft or an upgrade of a modernization program,” he said.

A DD 250 form is used by the Defense Department for contractors related to the delivery and receipt of supplies and services.

With the Biden administration coming into government leadership earlier this year, Taiclet said he’s been meeting with the new senior and technical leaders at DoD and presenting the three draft technology roadmaps in secret facilities to “test those with customers” before spending internal research and development funding on them.

“And we’re getting uptake on that, which is great,” he said. “You know, test drive our technology roadmap and make sure the linkages we think make sense in the next six, 12, 18 months make sense to you.”

Taiclet is also trying to work with DoD on a telecommunications industry practice called joint process mapping, which brings together technical and business people from supplier and customer to map each other’s processes—whether for contracting, sustainment or something else—on a white board to find gaps and overlap and delays. At American Tower, this process was used with its biggest customer and “in a very substantial piece of business and activity,” took out 50 percent of the cycle time while cutting cost by 25 percent, he said.

“Which if you apply that even in pockets of the defense budget, it would be tremendous savings and tremendous speed increase,” Taiclet said. “We’ve got mixed…feedback on that” from government in terms of such a meeting to share processes “and trying to make sure they work better together, but we’re going to keep trying.”

Another area where contractors and their government customers need to work together is on dynamic cost analysis, a practice that is used in the telecommunications industry to model how well networks might perform and what assets are needed for this, Taiclet said.

The defense industry already does modeling and operational analyses “extremely well” and these are shared with government customers, he said. But, he added, the dynamic cost analysis isn’t being done between the industry and its customers, which would show the tradeoffs between cost and mission in a technology roadmap.

“And so, we need to do these dynamically together and figure out that, just like a network design, there’s a cheaper way of doing it that gets you 95 percent of what you want. Do you want to consider that? Or do we have to do, or we agree to do, the 100 percent solution, which is going to cost you 40 percent more?” he said.

There needs to be a technology roadmap, a joint process and dynamic cost modeling that show the tradeoffs between capabilities and cost, he said.

“And that’s something that I haven’t really seen done in an integrated fashion so far in the defense enterprise,” Taiclet said. “I think somebody should do it.”

CSIS’s Hamre said these changes will require “very strong leadership over at DoD because the big bureaucracy that manages acquisition…this isn’t how they’ve been trained.”