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2002 Speeches
Phil Condit portrait

Phil Condit

Chairman and CEO

The Boeing Company

"Industry Challenges to Achieving Government Vision"

2002 AIAA Defense Excellence Conference

Washington, D.C.

February 20, 2002

It is an honor to share my thoughts at the AIAA "Defense Excellence 2002 " conference. I thank Under Secretary of Defense Aldridge and Rudy de Leon for "working together" to bring us two days of rich exchange and insight for government and industry.

Today I want to talk about our industry's challenges to maintain national security in a radically changing world. Then I will take your questions.

I believe the Information Revolution is changing our world, and in a relatively short time. As a result, we are interdependent -- as people, as cities, as countries, as civil and military servants. We connect physically, virtually, and globally because of great transportation, communication, and information technology advances over the last century -- things like the telephone, radio, and television; the jet airplane, satellites, and the PC; CNN and BBC World, and the Worldwide Web.

These are links. Links that integrate us, that blur boundaries and blend cultures, that also highlight differences and beliefs. Links that captured events of September 11...events that rocked and shocked our world, that changed our lives, that cause us to live in a state of alert to deal with adversaries, both far away and hidden among us. I believe that single day gives us reason to stay ahead, to lead, to stand guard, and to stay ever vigilant.

I also believe these challenges offer opportunities for aerospace industry leadership. First, an opportunity to support and aid the Department of Defense in its transformation to address 21st-century security needs. Second, an opportunity to use information technology to change the way we all do business. Both need to be addressed with urgency. Now let's look at both a little closer.

First opportunity: Support and aid the Department of Defense in its transformation to address 21st-century security needs.

I believe we must share a common vision -- one that matches the testimonies of Secretary Rumsfeld, the Quadrennial Defense Review, and Joint Vision 2020 as presented by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I believe these give our aerospace industry the blueprint for the first decade of the 21st century. This blueprint helps all of us: suppliers, customers, employees; civilian and military leaders; proud people in the aerospace industry and brave soldiers searching in caves. I believe we all gain by committing to a common vision.

Second opportunity: Use information technology to change the way we all do business.

Today information technology, high-bandwidth communication, and integrated infrastructures continue to dramatically alter how we do business. But the aerospace industry can do much more. We can do far better with shorter acquisition periods, with electronic transactions, with common standards, with sharing solutions between commercial and military sectors.

I believe both opportunities require us to think smart, work together, and act swiftly, and do that with ingenuity and a dose of common sense. We need to rethink our roles, our participation, and our missions. This means flexibility and a willingness to change. I believe Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said it best: "The war on terrorism is a transformational event that cries out for us to rethink our activities, each of us to rethink our activities, and put that thinking into action."

I believe we need to rethink our industry vision, too, because defense will be much different as the transformation takes hold. Our feet must match our words. The 21st century will require all elements of our infrastructure -- economic, diplomatic, financial, legal, law enforcement, and intelligence -- to cooperate, collaborate, and communicate seamlessly and globally.

Integration and the right team structure are critical to this success. Joint teams, for example, are being used in Afghanistan with dramatic results. Today U.S. Special Forces on the ground are "working together" in new ways with the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines to communicate and coordinate efforts on the battlefield, with great success. I believe we can learn from our customers' experiences.

There are specific things that the DoD says they need to do because the goal is "to prevent wars and find ways to influence decision-makers of potential adversaries." The DoD says it needs:

The DoD says it also needs to:

We need to listen. We need to deliver. We need to learn from observation.

Almost 100 years ago, Orville Wright said, and I quote:

"Learning the secret of flight from a bird was a good deal like learning the secret of magic from a magician. After you know what to look for, you see things that you did not notice when you did not know exactly what to look for."

Observation is key to good performance. And I don't think we have to look very far to learn from the DoD about "transformation" and the right path they are on for the future. While they protect citizens at home and interests and forces overseas in a changing environment, they must keep pace with a much different world by accelerating their own transformation. We must do the same.

In one year, for example, they accomplished a lot. They adopted a new defense strategy; replaced the decade-old two-major-theater war construct for one tuned to the new world; created a new approach for risk; reorganized and revitalized missile defense research; reorganized the department for better focus on space capabilities. They also completed a Nuclear Posture Review and developed a New Unified Command Structure...all while fighting a war. The DoD is getting the transformation job done in the face of amazing pressure. We must do the same.

We can learn from and observe others too. Take the U.S. soldiers in the battle for Mazar. They coupled ingenuity and common sense. They took a page out of the 18th-century cavalry by carrying feed for their mounts and ammo on their backs; by sporting beards, scarves, and saddles to meet an enemy on horseback. But there was a major twist. At the most critical part of the mission, they quickly transformed themselves into a 21st-century force to call in precision air strikes, using advanced communications and laser technology and 40-year-old B-52s. Our nation's soldiers combined the best of the past and the best of the present by thinking smart, by integrating low-tech and high-tech, to complete a brilliant mission. They got their job done in 21st-century style.

We can learn from Secretary Rumsfeld too. He told students at the National Defense University last month about challenges in efficiency and effectiveness, and about bureaucratic roadblocks in budgeting and planning, in out-of-date guidance, in acquisition processes that "aimlessly roll along."

He shared a story about how hard it is for him to try to figure out how to pay President Musharraf of Pakistan, who let us use fuel and airports and moved forces along the Afghan line after General Franks asked for help against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. When Secretary Rumsfeld tried to pay the bill for the help against terrorists, he ran into a litany of "no's." He heard: "This pocket's empty....We're sorry....Congress doesn't allow you to....We can't train with their military....We don't have a cost-servicing agreement that dates back to the first month. So we can't pay them for gas."

There is opportunity to learn from this story. How do we streamline acquisitions? How do we use technology for common benefit? How do we cut bureaucracy? How do we replace "no, we can't" with "yes, we can"? How do we use challenge and opportunity to transform ourselves?

So why tell these stories? To me, they represent stages of transformation. They help to visualize what can be done. They help to see opportunities in challenges.

Now let me wrap this up. The aerospace industry is about innovation and about constant improvement to "do the impossible." The aerospace industry is about leadership, about urgency, about embracing change. It's about those who took risk to transform the world. People such as Leonardo da Vinci and the Wright brothers, Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh; "Hap"Arnold and Curtis LeMay; John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, among so many.

It is now up to all of us to keep that strong tradition moving and lead the aerospace industry in a radically changing world. First, it is our duty to work together to support the Department of Defense in its transformation to address our 21st century security needs. Second, it is our duty to stay aggressive, to stay ahead, to stay the best forever to honor the past, the present, and the future. Third, it is our duty to adopt and lead change to help our customers, to help this great nation through a time of significant transformation.

Now I'd be happy to take your questions.