LONDON–The man at the helm of the top U.S. defense firm with huge international business interests continued to press for greater investment from European allies on security and said last week he is still welcoming feedback from politicians and defense establishments.
“Since Brussels, I have met and spoken with many government and industry leaders,” Robert Stevens, CEO, president and chairman of Lockheed Martin [LMT], told sister publication Defense Daily last week during a company dinner event for media. ” My intent has been to talk less and listen more.”
Last month in Brussels, Stevens’ message to NATO was that Europe needed to open its defense markets while increasing investment needed for meaningful contributions to transatlantic initiatives, if the Alliance hoped to remain militarily effective in the 21st Century (Defense Daily, June 4).
“With each passing opportunity, those companies who linger under this veil [of protectionism] will only grow weaker–until they will be quite literally protected to death,” Stevens said in Brussels.
Speaking to reporters in the capital of the U.S.’s staunchest and most contributory ally, Stevens extrapolated protectionism as leading to “atrophy” instead of death, and highlighted the numerous transatlantic partnership programs alive and well involving the two countries. However, the bulk of his address and the underlying warning message–more toward the Continent than the United Kingdom perhaps–was a replay of Brussels.
“If we all say we want collective security, then we must have interoperable systems,” Stevens said during a brief interview with sister publication Defense Daily after his remarks. “But I want to understand the demand…and how to address competing resource demands in Europe on things like education, [social] programs and security.”
“Surely there is a convergence of interest on homeland security,” he said. There has been an evolution in the definition of security, Stevens added. It is no longer simply a military issue but spans complex borders and involves “new protections” such as those of personal and business information, he said.
One message Stevens still hopes to get across while “primarily listening” is that industry health depends largely on stability of programs. “I can talk about return on investment…the standard models, but the key here is to remember this takes a long-range approach,” he said.
While the lowering of trade barriers and a ‘long-view’ could take a long time to materialize in Europe, Stevens said that eliminating overlap could begin right away. “It is simply not advisable for multiple governments…and multiple companies to be making the same investments in the same things independently…[and] not in a more coordinated manner.”
Asked repeatedly about the Boeing [BA] and Northrop Grumman [NOC]-European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS) tanker dispute, and whether it detracted from his stance that U.S. defense markets were in fact open, Stevens replied that he believed the tanker was an acquisition issue and “not at all a trade issue.”