Sunday, April 22, 2012

Machinist Union Strike Bodes Poorly For Lockheed

The machinist union at Lockheed Martin has voted to strike.  The company's offer to line out the defined benefit pension for new hires was a red line the union couldn't cross.  That's too bad, because the future of defense companies like Lockheed depends very much on keeping pension liabilities down in the face of declining defense budgets.

This particular strike will very likely cause a work stoppage at the primary assembly facility for the F-35 fighter, Lockheed's bet-the-company cash cow for the next three decades.  This troubled program somehow survived a Nunn-McCurdy breach that should have caused dramatic changes to the platform.  The plane has already cost at least 50% more than originally planned and now work will be delayed for weeks by this strike.

Multirole fighters were affordable when their structural engineering and avionics were simpler.  Reconfiguring multiple systems several times for the same airframe, including for a VSTOL version, has not proven to be the cost-saving procurement method originally promised.  No one at DOD seems to care.  That's too bad, because the federal government's eventual budget cliff-dive will render it unable to pay for its most coveted legacy weapon systems or backstop the losses of its prime contractors.  The striking machinists need a plan B.

Full disclosure:  No position in LMT at this time.