John Bryant, president of Oshkosh Defense, discusses products, technology and funding during an interview with at the 2018 AUSA Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.
AUSA Annual Meeting
Vago Muradian: Welcome to the Defense and Aerospace Report. I’m Vago Muradian here at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Conference and Trade Show here in Washington, DC, the number one gathering of U.S. Army leaders from around the world to discuss the service’s future, its strategy, budgets, technology, programs and more. Our coverage here is sponsored by Bell, a Textron company; Elbit Systems of America; L3 Technologies; Leonardo DRS; and SAFRAN.
We’re over here at Oshkosh Defense to talk to the President of the business, John Bryant, proud United States, former, retired United States Marine colonel, and acquisition officer par excellence. John, it’s always a pleasure seeing you.
John Bryant: Great to see you, Vago.
Mr. Muradian: You guys, congratulations on the win. And I wanted to talk to you a little bit about what that means. Just talk to us a little bit about the things that you’re highlighting here. It’s an Army that’s in great power competition again, so it’s a change in mindset. You guys do build vehicles, both for the current fight but also looking ahead at the future. Talk to us a little bit about some of the highs from this week.
Mr. Bryant: Sure. Vago, here we’re highlighting two of our new programs in Oshkosh Defense. Behind me you see the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and as you discussed, right now our military customer needs a very flexible vehicle. A vehicle that brings survivability, extreme off-road mobility, as well as that transportability and overall flexibility. Joint Light Tactical Vehicle brings that to the table.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle has recently completed operational testing, and we’re approaching a full-rate production decision in December.
So right now what we’re focused on is continuing to ramp up production while at the same time putting together our total package fielding process so that those first units have a great fielding experience when they receive JLTV.
Mr. Muradian: Talk to us about the progress you’re making on the trucks and other parts of the portfolio because you guys have quite a wide amount. You’re still making MATVs, you’re still producing obviously trucks for the Army as well.
Mr. Bryant: Sure. Over here you see our Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles A2. That was a competitive win last spring. That vehicle takes the Army’s medium workhorse and greatly improves protection, it greatly improves payload as well as mobility and ride quality. This is our unveiling of the FMTV A2. What you’ll see with that vehicle is, you’ll see a vehicle that takes the ability to carry heavy loads across severe cross-country terrain and do it at speeds that actually rival the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, and it will do that while also tremendously increasing survivability for the occupants. It’s a great program.
Mr. Muradian: And how many units is that going to be roughly?
Mr. Bryant: What we see in the FYDP right now is somewhere between 1200 and 1300, but our contract goes well beyond the FYDP. I think in the FYDP right now you see a little less than half a billion, somewhere around $480 million. Again, our contract extends well beyond that FYDP.
Mr. Muradian: Well, still a great business to have, and obviously a growth part of the market.
AS the President of an important business and one of the Army’s key suppliers, as you’re looking, what were some of the key messages you were listening to today from leadership? Whether it was about the Futures Command or anything else in terms of broad strategy or even some budgetary, I mean the Secretary tried to be clear that he’s going to try to free up money for acquisition, for example.
Mr. Bryant: Sure. We’ve been listening very closely, and watching to see the evolution of Futures Command. I spent a little bit of time with General Murray and talked about some of the challenges that a commander is faced with in standing up such a robust capability on a really constrained timeline. We’ve been watching that to see how it might change the way the Army does defense acquisition.
I think it’s actually a pretty exciting time when you look at the challenge he’s faced with and trying to bring some unity of command to acquisition, when he’s trying to bring together requirements and material development and combine that with the funding piece, it’s a pretty exciting time.
The other thing we’re looking at is the Army’s big six priorities, and of course from an Oshkosh perspective, we always worry about long-term funding and stability of the overall defense budget, so we take a look at, we’re looking at how many programs are competing for a relatively stable number of dollars.
Mr. Muradian: You were an acquisition professional. You were an instructor at Defense Acquisition University. Do you see any pitfalls to this approach? Because there are some folks who say that look, it’s great to put expert warriors and have them involved in shaping what a system should be and being sort of more disciplined about that process. On the other hand, there is a concern that you don’t have as many expert acquisition officers that are directly in that pipeline and that it’s somewhat more of an ad hoc relationship.
What do you see as both the opportunities here, but what do you see as potential challenges that folks have got to be focused on? As somebody who’s been in this game for a long time. You earned a reputation as being pretty good at it in your day.
Mr. Bryant: My experience has been the more warfighter involvement we can get in any program the better that program would turn out. And I think what you see General Murray is going to be doing with Futures Command, I don’t speak for General Murray, but I think what you’ll see is he’s combining the expertise of the warfighters with the expertise of the material developers. Normally if you can bring them together you can get that direct voice of the requirements generator with the realistic technical capabilities of the material developer. You can create programs that are actually set up where technology, time available and resources match requirements, and those are the keys to success.
Mr. Muradian: Actually we saw that demonstrated. We had General Bassett who’s the PEO for C3T for the Army along with General Gallagher who is the Cross Functional Team lead for networks, and it was, they were talking about just this intimate partnership between somebody who’s got all the operational credentials to know hey, this is what a battle network ought to be with a professional acquisition officer who knows hey, how to make these trades. And they sit right next to each other in Aberdeen working together every day. So it was really encouraging to sort of see these two guys sort of being like, as soon as an idea pops up we’re running it by the acquisition guy to find outlook, what’s the art of the possible here? It was great for the first time hearing a requirements officer being like we’re not going for the 400 percent solution here. Even if something is a little bit good enough, it’s good enough.
Mr. Bryant: Think of the opportunities that that presents. It allows a program to start much faster, and it allows it to start without spending a couple of years generating a requirement that might not be realistically achievable with technology and funding. It brings all that together and saves so much time and allows a program to be postured for success when it begins.
Mr. Muradian: Let me ask you about the industrial base report. You’re accompanied with hundreds if not thousands of suppliers, tens of thousands of parts that go into all of your products. You guys are a commercial giant of the first order.
Voice: Hold on.
Mr. Muradian: Are we having a technical difficulty?
Voice: We are. You’re good though.
Mr. Muradian: That high-frequency gear-slipping sound was not, it was no Bueno.
Mr. Bryant: It wasn’t good.
Voice: Good to go.
Mr. Muradian: I want to talk a little bit about the industrial base. The White House last week released its industrial base survey. Looking at potential failure points in the national security industrial base. You guys are a very key commercial supplier, but a very, very important defense supplier.
As the President of an important business that’s got hundreds of supplier companies and tens of thousands of parts in the inventory, what does that report mean to you? Are you guys going to have to make some more investment? Do you have points of failure in your supply chain that you guys are now going to have to make some investment to protect?
Mr. Bryant: Our sensitive points usually refer to smaller businesses that are involved in smaller volumes. So as we execute our programs, what our entire supply chain thrives on is predictability.
One of the good things about being a defense OEM is that I can see the FYDP, I can see how our programs are funded over time, our suppliers can see that. Where it gets a little risky for our suppliers is if you see variability year to year in the quantities being asked for in the various platforms.
So where our supply base as a whole is quite healthy, if funding were to drop for a year or two in a particular program, sometimes you lose those smaller suppliers. And then even some of the larger suppliers during periods of a healthy economy like this, you stand the risk that they might just move away from the defense business altogether and that could drive redesigns inside the system.
So the short story for us is what our supply base thrives on is predictability.
Mr. Muradian: That’s right, and everybody’s hoping that there’s going to be a little bit of budget stability going forward.
Anybody who knows you knows you’re a very proud Red Sox fan. I’m a proud Yankee fan. You guys played awesome baseball over the last couple of days. How does that feel? And how do you guys think, how do you think this is going to end up? Do you think Boston’s going to do it again? I’m having nightmares about 2005 right about now.
Mr. Bryant: It feels pretty good, but I have to tell you the Yanks were looking so strong right up there into the 9thinning, I went back to when I was in college and I had images of Bucky Dent dancing in in my head. So with two such phenomenal teams we Red Sox fans feel pretty fortunate that we got out of that one, I think.
Mr. Muradian: Do you feel pretty good? Do you think you guys can get another, win another World Series?
Mr. Bryant: I think they have the horses, but at this level, you know how it is, Vago. All the teams are so good. Everybody that’s left. Look at the Milwaukee Brewers right now, they’re playing fantastic baseball. So —
Mr. Muradian: And just don’t jinx them.
Mr. Bryant: But for the Red Sox, once we beat the Yankees, everything else is gravy.
Mr. Muradian: That’s right. It’s already a winning season.
John Bryant, President of Oshkosh Defense. Sir, it’s always an honor, always a pleasure talking to you, and I look forward to talking to you again, soon.
Mr. Bryant: Thanks so much, Vago.