As Commercial and Military Technology Converge, the Aerospace and Defense Industry Changes

April 23, 2018

The Aerospace and Defense industry is changing rapidly as practices from Wall Street are adopted and boundaries between commercial and military technology erode. That’s the message Jeff Babione (ADMBA, ’08) shared while speaking to a group of Haslam College of Business faculty, students and advisory board members during a visit to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, last week.

“Silicon Valley is being tapped to bring change to historically bureaucratic government processes,” Babione said. “Leaders from the technology industry are now just as likely to be seen in the halls of the Pentagon as leaders of large defense contractors.

“In the case of the F-35, the aircraft is not so much innovative for the weapons it carries, but because of the information it carries to the pilot and the entire battle space – it is connected,” Babione continued. “The importance of data is rapidly catching up to the platform itself. Technology companies look at information as a profit center, and we need to learn from them.”

Babione, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs, also known as the Skunk Works®, previously was responsible for all areas of development for the F-35 Lightning II Program. During his more than 20-year career, he also has led development, manufacture and sustainment of the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-22 Raptor, identifying synergies across both fighter programs and aligning them for continued success.

Joseph ‘Ben’ Skipper, Executive Director for Aerospace and Defense Executive Programs at Haslam, said Babione’s unique position as both a leader in the Aerospace & Defense industry and a graduate of the Aerospace & Defense MBA (ADMBA) program provided a timely and unique perspective for the faculty, the ADMBA candidates, and the college’s Aerospace & Defense Advisory Board, all of whom were in attendance.

“Jeff’s experience as a leader at Lockheed Martin and a graduate of ADMBA highlights the importance of incorporating principles and philosophies of business across all components of the aerospace industry, military, government and commercial sectors,” Skipper said.

Babione, for his part, fondly recalled his time in Haslam’s ADMBA program.

“It seems just like yesterday that I walked across the stage in the Alumni Memorial Building,” Babione said. “I absolutely loved my time at UT, and it is a delight to see many of my professors still teaching in the program. I also keep in touch with the other members of my class, and it has been a joy to watch them grow during the past 10 years.”

Now in its 15th year, the Haslam ADBMA is an industry-specific program designed to integrate with participants’ daily professional work. Professors in the program address real-world problems from multiple perspectives and focus on challenges executives share across the industry. During the program, candidates benefit from opportunities to bolster their networks and deliver return on investment to their employers through an Organizational Action Project.

Learn more about the Haslam Aerospace & Defense MBA.