the title of the talk given by Dick Wise OBE to the
Association on 8 July and it will surely prove to be a highlight of the
After graduating from
Wimbledon Technical College with an HND
in electrical and electronic engineering Dick joined Hawker Aircraft
Ltd in 1961 as a craftsman apprentice, completing his training as an
avionics engineer. He joined the new Avionic Systems office at Dunsfold
and participated in the ground and flight testing of the Harrier
avionic systems including flight observing in the Hunter TMk8M Sea
Harrier systems development aircraft.
He moved to Project Management at
Kingston and became Harrier Project Director in 1988 and Business
Development Director for BAe in 1992.
In 1994 he moved to Washington DC
as Executive Vice President North America and returning to the UK in
1999 he was appointed Sales & Marketing Support Director and
Business Development Director for Airborne Weapon Systems. In 2001 he
returned to DC as Vice President Program Development, retiring in 2005.
It was his experiences in the USA that formed the basis of his talk.
America - A
View From Washington DC
Dick explained what life was like inside the ‘Beltway’, the
road round Washington DC equivalent to our M25, which forms a moat
between DC and the rest of the USA. Within reside the political,
international and business communities, the first either being in
power, out of power or awaiting power.
The city is
divided into ‘haves’ in the East and ‘have-nots’ in the west. It was
once the ‘murder capital’ of the USA with some 500 per year in 2005
although the rate has now fallen to under 200 per year! The defence
community, including the BAE office, is to be found in the high-rise
district round the ‘Pentagon’, familiarly known as ‘the building’.
Dick was called back to his office on 11 September 2001
which had to be evacuated as it was contaminated with smoke from the
burning Pentagon, the target for a successful terrorist attack by
hijacked airliner. There was great confusion with roads closed, traffic
queues, abandoned cars with people using their laptops on the roadside,
and mobile networks down. The radio stations broadcast misleading and
false information continuously and police and other ‘agents’ roamed the
streets, weapons drawn. In the blue skies above, Dick watched an F-16
circling. The Pentagon burned for several days and there were 189 dead
including a BAe employee (two others were killed elsewhere).
There was a change in the American psyche; the people were
confident and had a craving to avenge the deed. Operation ‘Noble Eagle’
for the air defence of North America put National Guard F-16s on 24
hour CAPs (combat air patrols) seven days a week. They were refuelled
by NATO tankers from Europe (the first time that foreign forces had
been used operationally in the US). Surface-to-air missile systems were
deployed by the Washington Monument and troops were stationed at
airports. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, ordered that the
Pentagon be restored externally in twelve months; it was done in ten.
The airliner attacks were followed by anthrax spore
through the post to US senators amongst others, but it was postal
workers who were the majority of the seventeen sick and five dead.
Decontamination of the Capitol took months but the postal system took
two years and cost $130m. The source of the anthrax was traced to a
Government establishment; was this domestic terrorism?
for the American people. What next, a dirty bomb? Then there were
random sniper attacks, fifteen in three weeks with ten deaths. DC was
paralyzed with fear, there were road blocks, plazas were deserted and
gas stations put up tarpaulin blinds to shield customers from view. A
white van was believed to hold the culprits but it turned out to be a
blue Chevrolet with gun ports cut in its boot - not terrorists but men
on a shooting spree from the West Coast.
Government has three branches, noted Dick: the Executive (the
Presidential team or White House), the Legislature (Congress; the House
of Representatives and the Senate), and the Judiciary (the Supreme
Court). It is a system of checks and balances. Congressmen are elected
for two years so are interested in the near term and spend a third of
their time fund raising for re-election whereas Senators have a six
year term. The Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the President.
political calendar starts in January with the President’s State of the
Union speech setting out his agenda. In February the President sends
budget proposals to Congress for approval by the House and Senate
committees who mark-up the bills which are then voted on. In September
a conference reconciles the House and Senate bills which go back to the
President for signature and passage into law.
the defence field there are many ‘stake-holders’ including: the White
House, the Secretary of Defense, Congress, the Armed Services, State
Governments, the defence industry, think tanks, the Press, Armed
Services Associations, trade associations, and single topic interest
groups. They all retain lobbying firms or lobbyists, people who know
people with influence, of which there are 15,000 in DC.
access to Congress and Members need funds for election campaigns so…
lobbyists pay for access by donations. (The top ten Senators spend some
$250m on election campaigning). The object of the lobbyists is to get
funds ‘earmarked’ to named recipients for particular projects. The
system is close to bribery and there is a continuous cry to remove the
influence of lobbyists but this can’t be done because of the costs of
election. The total expenditure on lobbyists in 2008 was $3.4bn. Of
course BAe employed lobbyists of a very high calibre with contacts at
the highest levels.
Dick’s BAe office had
14 employees (12 US and 2 UK nationals) at Roslyn on the banks of the
Potomac River. (The BAE Systems office in DC is now on four floors and
employs 100 people, all but one being US nationals, representing all
the US business units which employ 30,000.) The US culture is different
to the British, and varies from State to State, as is the language. It
is vital to understand this. Dick set up ‘war rooms’ for each project
so all his staff were fully briefed, not only technically and
commercially, but also culturally. For instance, when pitching to
supply the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Tennessee, good ol’ boy
country, it was no suits - strictly casual.
Congressmen have three
priorities: jobs, jobs and jobs, so when BAe offered to close a small
Royal Ordnance plant in England and transfer the work to RO USA they
got the contracts - for five year’s explosives supply (since renewed)
and 25 year’s management).
Early in 1990
the USN started the Joint Advanced Strike Technologies (JAST) programme
to develop innovative ‘building blocks’ for the next generation of
weapon systems. US industry was cool; they wanted contracts for new
aircraft. With British Embassy support BAe gained access to the JAST
briefings and submitted bids. They failed but established the company
as a recognised industrial partner. The Department of Defense tried to
eject BAe but were thwarted by the Harrier legacy, the UK Government
and consultant lobbyists.
directed that the ongoing US-UK
Government ASTOVL programme be integrated with JAST for a Joint Strike
Fighter (JSF) programme to replace the F-16, F-18, A-10 and AV-8B. BAe
joined up with McDonnell-Douglas (MDC) to compete against Boeing and
Lockheed-Martin (L-M). One of BAe’s jobs was to represent Boeing in
marketing role-playing exercises.
commented to MDC that to survive
Boeing would have to rebalance its business by obtaining more military
work, if necessary by buying a competitor. MDC dismissed this finding.
However, on failing to secure a place in the next JSF round they were
acquired by…Boeing! Now BAe was courted by Boeing and L-M and their JSF
partners Northrop-Grumman (N-G), and chose the latter. In October 2001
L-M won the $200bn contest.
the campaign to keep it. L-M were
worried that JSF was competing for funds with their own F-22, and
Boeing offered the competing F-18, F-15 and UAVs (unmanned air
vehicles) as alternatives. Boeing even discussed a possible Harrier III
with Dick. So, UK expertise, originating at Kingston was recognised as
a critical factor in the success of the L-M JSF.
Dick also told us about the USN Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft
Programme to replace the P-3 Orion. Post 9/11 the US became conscious
of the maritime threat. The task boiled down to selling a Comet to the
USN! The competitors were: the L-M developed P-3, BAe’s Nimrod, the
Airbus A319, Boeing’s 737 and N-G with a UAV and P-3 combination. The
USN selected the Nimrod vs. the 737. Why the Nimrod? The USN was short
of money and the Nimrod programme was already partly paid for; buried
engines gave stealth characteristics superior to the 737; the large
clear underwing area gave plenty of space for antenna arrays and UAV
carriage; the large bomb bay would hide sensitive stores when abroad;
and the large capacity airframe gave growth potential.
BAe now needed a
US prime contractor for access to the next stage so approached L-M,
Boeing and N-G. L-M wanted their P-3 to survive, Boeing would offer the
Nimrod and their 737 and N-G didn’t want to compete against their
largest customer, Boeing. BAe deliberated for some time then withdrew;
and Boeing won.
sidelight was when
Dick was asked to find a Harrier for the Canadian Aviation Museum at
Ottawa. He selected an AV-8A from the Davis-Monthan desert storage
facility and had it shipped to Canada which did no harm to BAe’s bid to
sell Hawks there.
ceremony for the last Harrier, an AV-8B for Spain. He said it felt like
a memorial service for an old and close friend. From a concept in the
late ‘50s production had continued until 2003 and it was the UK’s entry
ticket to JSF, the biggest defence contract ever.
Martin Pennel, in giving the vote of thanks, congratulated Dick on this
fascinating and comprehensive talk.