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Event Recap May 26, 2022

Lockheed Martin CEO James D. Taiclet on 21st century security and the Russia-Ukraine war

By Caroline Steel

21st Century Security is really about… connecting and moving data.

James Taiclet

On April 29, the Scowcroft Center’s Forward Defense (FD) practice hosted Lockheed Martin Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer James D. Taiclet for a conversation on Understanding the Challenges of US & Allied Defense Innovation.”

This was the inaugural event of the new Forward Defense Forum, designed for defense visionaries to put forth creative ideas for the future of US and allied security. The Forum is part of FD’s recently launched project on “21st Century Security,” generously supported by Lockheed Martin, which will advance the dialogue on how the United States and its allies and partners can deter and, if necessary, fight and win future wars.

As the leader of the world’s largest defense contractor, Taiclet has a unique perspective on emerging security and defense challenges. He joined Forward Defense in conversation with Courtney Kube, a national security and military correspondent with NBC News. They discussed how the United States and its allies and partners can integrate existing weapon systems and sensor networks to deter and defeat adversarial aggression.

Read on for some key takeaways from the Forum:

The US is taking notes on the Russia-Ukraine war.

Advanced, expendable weapons play a critical role in warfare.

The Javelin has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, proving essential to Ukraine’s ability to defend against Russian tanks and get within range of Russian troops. The dramatic impact of Javelins and similar fire-and-forget munitions, such as kamikaze drones, has underscored the notion that cheaper yet advanced weapons can have a sizable impact on the battlefield.

Military power hinges on aerospace dominance.

Ukraine has also demonstrated the importance of mobile, layered air defense, utilizing potable Stingers, short-range Tor surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and long-range S-300 SAMs to deny the Russian Air Force. In anticipation of greater demand from the United States and its allies, and to replenish stores depleted by the war, Lockheed is ramping up production of Javelins and air defense systems, such as THAAD and Patriot missiles.

Integrated defense is key.

On a larger scale, the war in Ukraine has also underlined the importance of integrated defense: optimizing the sensor-to-shooter pipeline by connecting existing technologies. To achieve integration, the defense enterprise will need to make use of 5G network speeds, predictive artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, satellite constellations, and advanced weapons. This open architecture Internet of Military Things (IoMT) will connect the dots in existing systems and lay the groundwork for US and allied deterrence.

COVID-19 exposed core supply chain vulnerabilities.

Over two years since the start of the pandemic, defense contractors are still recovering from chip shortages. Even before the war on Ukraine began to drain weapon stockpiles, COVID-19 was already effecting shortages in microprocessors—that is, computer chips that allow modern weapons systems to function. As the number one chip producer, Taiwan remains critical to the US defense supply chain—but Chinese aggression could threaten access to Taiwanese chipmakers in the future, underscoring the need to secure the supply chain today to protect 21st century security challenges tomorrow.

China is the big picture threat.

While Russia poses an acute threat, China remains the pacing challenge to the United States. In addition to Javelins, Stingers, and other affordable, portable weapons, Lockheed also anticipates rising demand for more complex, advanced weapons systems—such as the Patriot and THAAD missiles, F-16 multi-role fighter aircraft, counter-battery radars, sixth-generation aircraft, and other capabilities with lengthy production timelines. For the time being, however, networked systems of existing capabilities can help bridge the divide, multiply, and set the stage for the long play. Integrated, networked defense, in coordination with allies and partners, will be critical to the United States’ ability to combat simultaneous threats in the Indo-Pacific and Europe.

The key to secure networks is partnering with the private sector.

So we can apply this concept of really bringing together the Newtonian world, the technologies that the defense and aerospace industry’s really good at, and this digital world, where companies like Microsoft and Verizon and AT&T and others [excel]—and let’s bring them together and solve national problems.

James Taiclet

Private companies will always have the edge over public defense contractors, in their ability to attract talent and innovate at speed. Partnership between the commercial and defensive realms can help accelerate defensive capabilities and solve sticky problems. Rather than innovating separately, defense contractors can team up with private industries to bring cutting-edge technologies and security to national defense. In other words: connecting the “Newtonian” and digital worlds.

21st century security is more than just defense.

Connecting platforms across domains is a concept that can be applied to more than just defense: in fact, 21st century security means integrating technologies across industries, to safeguard national interests at every level. Taiclet defines 3 key areas of focus:


21st century defense connects fifth-generation fighters with advanced missile batteries, cutting edge radar systems, and human operators. Integrated defense is a force multiplier for the Department of Defense because it amplifies existing technologies in order to meet current and future threats from competitors and adversaries.


Climate change is an emergent challenge to national security: it threatens citizens, property, and utilities. Taiclet brought in the example of wildfires: right now, it takes around twenty- four hours for fire commanders to receive updated thermal infrared satellite data on a fire. Using airborne, ground-borne and spaceborne sensors, it is possible to predict, prepare for, and monitor fires—but that information is not getting where it needs to go, because of a lack of data infrastructure.


Finally, Taiclet identifies latent opportunities in space, where 21st century security concepts can help reinforce US interests on the next frontier of innovation. Combining autonomy, battery life extension, next-generation communications, and artificial intelligence, a lunar rover would be able to operate independently between astronaut missions. Satellites can secure communications on earth, increase data speeds, and enable other technologies. Innovation in space feeds into scientific discovery, but also rolls back into defense, and reinforces the entire national security pipeline.

The bottom line

As competition creeps into new spheres, 21st century security will help protect US citizens and interests against a broad spectrum of growing threats. The US defense-industrial base must leverage existing technologies, develop future capabilities, and reach across the aisle to work with commercial enterprise, in order to fend off simultaneous threats and edge out multi-fronted competition. 

Caroline Steel is a Young Global Professional with the Forward Defense practice of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

Watch the event

More about 21st century security

The Forward Defense Forum is designed for defense visionaries to put forth novel ideas for how the United States and its allies and partners can adapt, innovate, and win on the future battlefield. Built for creative thinking, this interactive public forum provides a space for the defense community to engage on issues core to the future of US and allied security.

About Forward Defense

Forward Defense, housed within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, generates ideas and connects stakeholders in the defense ecosystem to promote an enduring military advantage for the United States, its allies, and partners. Our work identifies the defense strategies, capabilities, and resources the United States needs to deter and, if necessary, prevail in future conflict.