The Skunk Works Secret Formula

Palmdale, Calif.—The “Skunk Works model” has been touted by Pentagon acquisition, technology and logistics chief Frank Kendall in many recent speeches as a template for how the US defense industry can stay ahead of competitors and quickly deliver new capabilities. Lockheed Martin Skunk Works VP and General Manager Rob Weiss, in an interview with Air Force Magazine, summed the model up: “Get the requirements right, with the right people, with the right talent, empowered to get the job done. And then…appropriately push the cutting edge but having your risk appropriately managed so you can deliver on cost.” Weiss emphasized the team should be small, that there should be trust between the government and the company, and to “make sure we’re not adding people to the equation that don’t really add any value.” A small, firm set of requirements should be set early on so you “know the problem you’re trying to solve,” and those requirements should hold “through the development process.” Risk can be driven down by re-using hardware and software already proven to work and having an “open systems architecture” so that other elements can be added along the way. Risk can be reduce?d on truly revolutionary technologies through frequent prototyping, Weiss said.