Textron’s Ellen Lord on the Future of Defense Contracting

Ellen Lord, CEO of Textron Systems, gave the third address of the Atlantic Council Captains of Industry series, speaking on her “View of Defense from Inside a Multi-Industrial Company.”

In the aftermath of the Cold War, the US defense industry largely restructured around large-scale specialists in government contracting. The biggest companies are functionally diversified—in some cases building aircraft, warships, armored vehicles, electronic systems, and space satellites—but they are wholly focused on a single customer. From Lord’s vantage point, both the industry and its US government customer are organized for long-duration, high-volume programs of exquisite technical complexity. But today, she argued, tightening financial constraints have rendered this model inviable. According to Lord, the answer—and what those large contracting conglomerates lack—is Textron’s multi-industrial experiences.