Increasing use of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and more partnerships between companies and governments will lead to faster introductions of new solutions in the defense space, Kathy Warden, chairman, president and CEO of Northrop Grumman [NOC], said on Tuesday.
The rapid pace of innovation will lead to the increased partnerships that in turn will fuel the faster evolution of technologies and that will ultimately change the “composition” of the defense industry, Warden said during a virtual event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Innovation will expand certain markets, creating opportunities for new companies to enter these spaces, she said.
“There will be more consolidation,” Warden said at the Defense in the 21st Century conversation. “There will also be more new entrants and so it’s hard to say there will be fewer players but the ones that exist today will likely continue to consolidate as we have seen in recent years and we’ve seen in other cycles over the decades, but you’ll also have new entrants, particularly in areas like cyber and space that are more rapidly growing and creating the room for more new players.”
Many applications of core emerging technologies like AI and machine learning that are developed for commercial uses will adapted for defense purposes, she said.
While the defense industry for nearly a year has been grappling with impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on its operations and supply chains, Warden said the resiliency of the industrial base is still a “key issue for the Biden administration” and its defense leadership team. There are still “mitigation steps” that the administration and industry will have to partner on, she said.
Last year the Pentagon accelerated progress payments to its prime contractors, who in turn funneled cash to their small and medium-sized suppliers to help them maintain stability while the pandemic interfered with operations. Warden said that the larger contractors that had the “financial means” also “very proactively reached out” to its suppliers to provide them with the information they needed to continue operating.