Lockheed manager: Sequestration effects unknown
by Jon Gillooly
jgillooly@mdjonline.com
April 03, 2013 11:56 PM | 2699 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AUSTELL — The message Shan Cooper, general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Marietta plant, gave to the South Cobb Business Association on Wednesday is that aside from the unknown consequences of federal budget cuts, the plant is in good shape.

Lockheed Marietta has a workforce of about 6,800.

It is still in the process of transferring the 550 employees from Marietta to Texas in the wake of the F-22 fighter program’s ending last year.

“I think that’s the biggest change that you’ll see,” Cooper said. “Beyond that, it’s going to be probably based around attrition. As people retire, I’ll probably backfill less where I can.”

Sequestration looms

Cooper said she will try to insert technology wherever possible for greater efficiency.

“And so beyond I would say the 6,500, 6,400 (employees), I think we’ll stabilize there for a little bit, but we’re going to constantly look at it,” she said.

Cooper said her comments are made against the backdrop of not yet knowing what impact sequestration will have.

“So if I get back to my office and there’s a letter, you know, saying that there is a shifting in the number of C-130, then all that changes, of course, and we’ll have to adjust accordingly. But that’s the biggest change you’re going to see most soon, and we’ll probably have all that transition completed by September. That’s what I anticipate.”

One thing Cooper said she hopes happens is that Lockheed gets more F-35 work.

“I’ve made the ask. Let’s cross our fingers and pray,” she said.

Another area of growth for Lockheed Marietta is winning the contract for the Air Force’s fast-jet training program called T-X.

“I think we’re very well positioned to bring that work here to Marietta,” Cooper said. “It is a new jet trainer aircraft that the Air Force needs now to train folks on these fifth-generation aircraft. I really believe that we have the opportunity. If we can take costs out of the operation right now and Lockheed Martin wins that T-X program, we’ve got the capacity, we’ve got the space with the F-22 moving. I can put it right there. We’ve got the workforce. They already know how to do fighter aircraft. They’ve proven that with the F-22 success, and so I believe that we’re going to be in growth mode.”

Cooper said the 350 aircraft that would be awarded with the $8 billion to $10 billion contract could translate into 400 to 500 jobs.

“So we are aggressively positioning ourselves to win that particular work first for Lockheed Martin, and then my goal is to go off and win it for Marietta,” she said.

16 new C-130J Super Hercules airlifters

President Obama’s signing into law a resolution that includes funding for 16 new C-130J Super Hercules airlifters, nine more than originally budgeted, is good news for Lockheed, Cooper said.

“We’re excited about that, and again, don’t know if it will all come to fruition again because we don’t know what’s going to happen with sequestration, but that was just a tremendous, tremendous win for us,” she said, also noting the approval for advanced procurement of 20 additional C-130Js, a sum of about $200 million.

“I still hang my hat on the fact that it’s just a one-of-a-kind aircraft, and our customers love it, so that’s what I’m counting on, but again, I think we’ll be positioned well,” she said. “If you think about the longevity of our product line, we’ve been building the C-130 now for almost 60 years; C-5, that aircraft was first developed in the ’60s; P-3, we celebrated its 50th anniversary last year; so think about the longevity of our products.”

The president’s announcement will help Lockheed maintain its current production rate, she said.

“We’re going to maintain at this point unless our customers tell us we need a surge, which they did a couple years ago. At this point we’re going to maintain our 24 aircraft per year rate,” she said. “That allows us to have stability so people don’t have to worry losing their jobs. Anything else beyond that is just wonderful. But our plan right now is to maintain unless the customer says we need you to surge, which they did a few years ago when we went up to 36.”

Tunisia, Israel and South Korea

Cooper said she had to leave the luncheon early to prepare for a dinner where she was hosting officials from Tunisia.

Today Lockheed delivers that country’s first C-130J. Israel will receive its first one this year as well, while Lockheed is also working on South Korea’s first.

“People love the C-130,” she said.

One of the ways Cooper is looking at growing her business is through what she calls “MMRO,” or modification, maintenance, repair and overhaul.

Unfortunately with the C-130J, Lockheed did not keep up with the sustainment work, leaving other organizations to sustain the C-130J, she said.

“So how do we ensure that we’re positioned from here going forward that everything we build we sustain it,” she said. “That’s the essence of that business policy.”

Consider the C-5. Last year Lockheed delivered four C-5 aircraft. This year it will deliver eight to 10.

“It is a phenomenal aircraft. One the customers absolutely love,” she said. “Think about being able to fly from Dover Air Force Base all the way directly into Afghanistan. That had never been able to be done before until they got the C-5 in.”

Among those at the luncheon, at Presbyterian Village in Austell, was Cobb Chamber Chairman Greg Morgan.

“She’s a dedicated employee and a very dedicated individual here in Cobb County,” Morgan said, applauding Cooper’s talk. “I think things are very positive for them, but we’ve got to do everything as a community to protect the asset that we have here. So as part of the community and Cobb Chamber of Commerce, we want to do everything we can do to support Lockheed and see that they continue to be the success that they are, and that encompasses all of Dobbins and Lockheed, as well as the Clay site of the operation.”
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