Lockheed Martin Prepares In Camden For Superproject Potential

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 128 views 

Editor’s note: TB&P Business Editor Wesley Brown recently reached out to officials with Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin as the countdown nears for the U.S. military to select a defense contractor to replace its aging Humvee trucks, a bid that could be worth well over $30 billion.

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is being developed by the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps as a successor to the High Mobility, Multi-Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), or Humvee, which has been in service since 1985.

In 2007, the Pentagon established a technology development phase for the JLTV program that included a number of competitors participating. Following that phase, a Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued in January 2012 and the U.S. Army announced three companies (Lockheed Martin, Oshkosh and AM General) as finalists for a 27-month pilot engineering and manufacturing program. The three competitors were required to provide 22 JLTV prototypes for testing 12 months after the EMD contracts were awarded.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have established a “not to exceed” vehicle cost of $250,000, and announced that approximately 55,000 JLTVs would be procured by the two services. It is anticipated that the JLTV program will also draw significant interest from the international military vehicle marketplace as well, officials have said.

If the Pentagon chooses Lockheed Martin, the defense contracting giant will perform final assembly of JLTV at its award-winning production facility in Camden, Ark.

Here is Talk Business & Politics’ Q&A with Lockheed Martin’s Camden Operations Site Director Colin Sterling:

Wes Brown: What is the time table for the Pentagon’s decision on the JLTV contract award?

Colin Sterling: It is our understanding that the decision on the JLTV program will be announced in late July/early August of this year.

Brown: Have there been any studies on the possible economic impact on the JLTV award to the Camden area and South Arkansas?

Sterling: Lockheed Martin has been a long-time resident of Camden, and has been the source of literally hundreds of millions of dollars in economic prosperity for South Arkansas since the company’s founding in Camden more than 35 years ago. Lockheed Martin has invested millions of dollars in the acquisition and establishment of its new JLTV production facility in the Highland Industrial Park in East Camden, and plans to invest millions of additional dollars from calendar year 2015 through 2023, should the company be selected as winner of the competition.

Additionally, Lockheed Martin continues to make significant investments in the communities where we live and work. Since 2010, Lockheed Martin Corporation has donated more than $600,000 to local community partners supporting education, veterans and other community needs in the greater Camden area. And since 2010, our employees have volunteered approximately 50,000 hours and personally donated almost $300,000 through payroll deductions supporting local various community charities and agencies in the Camden area.

A win for Lockheed Martin on the JLTV program will be a huge win for the state of Arkansas, and help ensure economic prosperity for potentially thousands of Arkansas businesses and residents for decades to come.

Brown: Could you provide TB&P with an overall backgrounder on the current workforce for the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control’s in Camden, and what that labor pool would like in order to bring the JLTV into production?

Sterling: We could not ask for a better workforce here in Camden. Most of our employees grew up in the area, and their commitment to producing superior products to protect our warfighters is the source of our success.

We support a diverse portfolio of products and customers, and cross-train our employees to support multiple production lines. This has enabled us to maintain a stable employment base—an average of approximately 650 employees per year for the past few years. We are staffed to meet our current and scheduled contract requirements and are in a good position to capitalize on any new opportunities given our versatile workforce.

We have a direct responsibility to the end user—the warfighter who uses our products—to be proactive in procuring top-notch talent at all levels of the operation. At the local level, we have a robust outreach program to support STEM development and identify students interested in pursuing technical careers. We work with regional high schools to assist those who desire to move forward with higher educational goals through concerted STEM-focused areas, and work with our local technical college to create vocational and pre-employment programs for those who wish to enter the workforce immediately on graduation. These programs provide students with knowledge and workforce training that is valuable to both them and Lockheed Martin.

It is our goal to place employees in long-term careers, not just jobs, so continuing education is a priority at Lockheed Martin. We have a proactive workforce development program in place to ensure our production employees are responsive, responsible and technically proficient. On the managerial side, we steep our entry-level professionals in the principles of operational excellence via ourinternal Lean Six Sigma program. Once they attain this value-added skill set and way of thinking, they join the ranks of similarly empowered employees dedicated to bettering Camden’s operations.

Brown: Could you explain what Lockheed Martin and area economic development officials have done in preparation for JLTV production in terms of expansion, infrastructure, and workforce training?

Sterling: Lockheed Martin made the decision to do final assembly of the JLTV in Camden, Arkansas, if we win the contract, and as we mentioned above, the financial benefits to the state could be substantial. There have been some initial discussions about potential economic incentives but there is nothing to announce or discuss at this time.

Brown: Explain to Arkansans a little bit about Lockheed Martin’s Camden operations, and the company’s role as a corporate citizen.

Sterling: Lockheed Martin Camden Operations is a center of excellence for the corporation’s Precision Fires munitions manufacturing and Ground Vehicle production.

In the Precision Fires realm, Camden performs final assembly on a number of missiles and rockets, including the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and Guided MLRS (GMLRS) rockets, the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile and the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) family of long-range surface-to-surface missiles.

In terms of Ground Vehicles, Camden performs final integration and assembly of the MLRS launcher, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launcher and the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) launchers and Fire Control and Communications Vehicles (as well as missile canisters). The company has established its award-winning Camden location as the home of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program, and intends to conduct final assembly on the vehicles at its new JLTV facility in the Highland Industrial Park.

Camden has been widely recognized by industry for manufacturing excellence. Along with MFC’s other sites, it received the 2012 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the manufacturing category. The Malcolm Baldrige award represents one of the highest honors bestowed upon American companies for their achievements in leadership, strategic planning, customer relations, measurement and analysis, workforce and operations focus and results. Camden Operations also received the Arkansas Governor’s Award in 2012. This is the highest level of recognition given by the Arkansas Institute for Performance Excellence. We received IndustryWeek magazine’s prestigious “Best Plants in America” award in 2006.