Leonard F. Kwiatkowski
Former Vice President and General Manager,
Lockheed Martin Space Systems has landed some huge military satellite communications contracts over the last decade, tops among them the U.S. Air Force’s highly secure Advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) system and the U.S. Navy’s Mobile User Objective System. But the biggest prize of them all, the Air Force’s $11 billion Transformational Satellite communications system, also known as T-Sat, remains elusive.
Award of the prime contract for the futuristic T-Sat system, the successor to the Advanced EHF system, has been delayed repeatedly; in December the Air Force scaled-back the program and delayed the award of the prime contract from late 2008 to sometime in 2010. The target launch date for the first in an initial block of five T-Sat satellites has been moved from 2016 to 2019.
For Leonard Kwiatkowski, who has been leading Lockheed Martin’s efforts to beat out competitor Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems for the T-Sat contract, the latest delay means he will not be around to either savor victory or taste defeat. Kwiatkowski, who turns
March, retired from Lockheed Martin Feb. 6 and was replaced by Kevin Bilger, who was vice president of programs at the company.
Kwiatkowski joined Lockheed Martin in 1996 after retiring from the Air Force as a brigadier general. His last active-duty assignment was running the Military Satellite Communications Joint Program Office at Air Force Space and
, which procures military space hardware.
Despite retiring for a second time, Kwiatkowski says he plans to remain active in the field he entered in 1967 as a lieutenant working as a planner for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, the Pentagon’s ultimately abandoned effort to put a small space station in orbit for research and reconnaissance. In addition to possibly doing some consulting work for Lockheed Martin, he will co-chair a California Space Authority advisory committee and also do some space-related volunteer work.
Just prior to departing Lockheed Martin, Kwiatkowski spoke with Space News correspondent Jeremy Singer.
Is there an existing model, past or present, that the Air Force could implement today to reduce technical risk in space acquisition programs?
In the past, the Air Force stuck with some of its constellations, like the Defense Support Program, where 23 satellites were built – past the point where some perceived the capabilities to be current – in order to maintain a reliable, low-risk program. The third block of the Defense Satellite Communications System is another example where the Defense Department stuck with one contractor – General Electric – for two decades, even though new technology was available. While the Pentagon was continuing to launch those satellites, it was developing the new technology in parallel.
This low-risk approach is still applicable today. There have been new competitions, restarts, major changes, and new developments with high risk in all cases.
Doesn’t this approach sacrifice performance?
You may sacrifice performance, but look what has happened in the case of the T-Sat program. [Former Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld grew fickle with the Advanced EHF program and truncated it in order to build new satellites with laser links and Internet Protocol routers. The T-Sat program has been repeatedly delayed, and the cost of the Advanced EHF program has been driven up in part due to related decisions that were not timely or cost effective.
The space community has been criticized for its lack of ability to meet cost and schedule goals, but what do you expect when you undertake high-risk new developments with inherent risk. Just because the technologies have been proven, does not eliminate new product development risk.
Will the T-Sat craft be the largest communications satellites that you’ve seen?
Why are they so big?
There can be a bias in cost-modeling toward building bigger satellites to reduce life cycle costs by launching fewer rockets. In general, however, I’ve found that purchasing a larger quantity of smaller satellites, and relying on that program for longer periods, is the best way to avoid schedule problems, reduce risk and ultimately have a lower overall cost.
Are you worried the T-Sat satellites could outgrow the payload capacity of existing
I’m not too worried. Weight can be actively managed, and there is sufficient margin. I’m more concerned about issues like integrating new technology that has been space-qualified for the first time, and on the reliability of the supply chain.
What’s your concern with the supply chain?
There are a lot of cases where Lockheed Martin and Boeing are both forced to rely on a tiny niche of vendors. In some cases, there are only one or two suppliers, which bear a high degree of risk if components fail or parts are deemed otherwise unacceptable.
Have the delays to the T-Sat prime contract award caused any problems for Lockheed Martin?
The government has financed the extensions, so it hasn’t hurt us financially. As for keeping our team together, it hasn’t hurt us – yet. We’ve had our team together for more than five years, and it takes some management and leadership attention to keep the people and their skills together. There is some attrition, and I don’t want to reveal anything competition sensitive, but yes, we’re managing the people and it takes senior leadership attention.
This is now a new competition; it’s not a continuation. We have the team in place now and we’re anxious to get on with this important program.
The Advanced EHF program has had a number of setbacks over the years. Do you see anything standing in the way of a launch next year?
No. Vehicle 1 will be retested in the thermal vacuum at the customer’s request in April, and I don’t foresee any obstacles to a launch in 2010. The exact time that it launches may depend on how the Air Force manages the range manifest, but I don’t see it slipping beyond 2010.
Because of what we learned with Vehicle 1, work on the second vehicle, which is undergoing thermal vacuum testing as we speak, has moved much faster. That satellite will likely be ready to launch before Vehicle 1 because of the retesting. Vehicle 3 is ahead of schedule for integration with its payload, and we expect to be under contract for the fourth satellite next year.
What’s the likelihood that the Pentagon will ask you to extend the Advanced EHF line beyond four satellites?
We’ve done some “what if” drills, but we haven’t looked at it seriously in a while.
Does the Pentagon need to make any organizational changes to improve its handling of space acquisition efforts?
They need a better unification of the military and intelligence space architecture. While there is certainly a need in certain areas to maintain separation, in many others, it makes sense to consolidate projects. At least there should be an office within the government that oversees both defense and intelligence space efforts.
There were attempts at this in the past with the space architect’s office, but they were never in a position to control resources or direct anything. They were in an advisory role where no one had to listen, and with two giant bureaucracies competing against each other, they usually went their separate ways so long as they could squeeze the programs into their own budgets.
I know that John Young [undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics] has tried to do that with Josh Hartman [director for space and intelligence capabilities in Young’s office], but it needs to be done at a larger, organizational level – one person can’t handle this all himself. It’s one thing to give advice on budgets, but it’s another to make decisions and enforce them.
What kind of advice are you giving to Lockheed Martin on your way out?
I’m at the beginning of the retirements of the baby boomers. I know the company is paying attention to knowledge transfer with the turnover of senior personnel. Over the next five to 10 years, there will be substantial change at the senior level, and transferring the experience that those people have gained in their careers is on the agenda. We need to be sure that the people that we are recruiting have the benefits of lessons learned from past development programs.
How do you do that?
Through improving our mentor-protege efforts and building new ones. We also have tons of information stored in our computer networks, and we’re improving those databases of lessons learned as we do things like publish bulletins about best practices. It’s one thing to have information; it’s another thing for people to know how to get it.