Deloitte Principal Robin Lineberger on Shifting Global Defense Demand, Differentiation and Public Service

The is the second part of an Executive Spotlight on Deloitte Principal Robin Lineberger, who recently rotated into his current position from CEO of Deloitte Federal Services to help major aerospace and defense firms adjust to an uncertain domestic A&D environment and take advantage of global shifts in defense spending.

Click here to read part one of the Spotlight.

Robin Lineberger - Deloitte, ExecutiveMosaicExecutive Mosaic: How is the customer base within the global defense outlook changing? Are there nations active in this space that wouldn’t have been targets five-10 years ago?

Robin Lineberger: Yes, places like Mexico, the UAE, Qatar, Brazil are represented and may not initially come to the mind. It’s interesting. You have to go back and relook at the data to really see it. There are some there that you would not have normally expected. It’s in part because it doesn’t take major platforms to outfit the special operations forces of today.

The types of threats countries are experiencing require different solutions, and it’s not always the big platforms. It’s smaller mobile forces dealing with the kinds of things we’re seeing around the world in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s these smaller, mobile insurgent-type forces or organized criminal groups that are not driving tanks or flying planes.

 

Executive Mosaic: What does it mean for you on a personal level to be moving into a position where you’re working directly with some of these major clients in such turbulent times and helping them position themselves for long-term growth? What does it mean to you to have gotten to a point where that’s your main focus?

Robin Lineberger: It’s sort of a natural progression. I’ve run major government contractors for one public company and one private company, and so you just say, “okay, what’s next?” While there are alternatives, I looked at where my expertise and the need of the current market best matched and it was taking those capabilities into this adjacent market because the issues that we’ve learned about in our day-to-day execution are the same issues putting pressure in the aerospace and defense market.

For me this is a great opportunity to replicate what I have done many times over, and defines my success, which is to build business, build relationships, add value and have an impact on our clients. It’s refreshing to get back out in the market and actually work with senior executives and help them solve their problems. I was interacting with the aerospace and defense leadership in my previous eight years in my role as the CEO of one federal practice mainly as business partners to jointly serve our federal customers.

Robin Lineberger, Leukemia Fundraiser
Robin at 2012 Triathlon Inspiration Dinner

Now it’s about working with them, not only to continue the partnering, but then talking to them about the issues that they have, including corporate issues that go beyond just those that are driven through the change in the marketplace.

We talk about the regulatory environment and those regulations aren’t only federal government regulations but things such as SEC regulations and tax rules. It’s about bringing together a complete integrated set of advisory services for those major aerospace and defense firms, as well as strategy, operations, technology and workforce issues.

 

Executive Mosaic: What differentiates Deloitte as a unique partner for those firms? What enables Deloitte to deliver more value than its competitors?

Robin Lineberger: It’s a combination of three things. First, we have an unparalleled portfolio of capability as the largest professional services provider in the world, and the largest by far in the U.S. So as our multi-industry and multi-issue capability is unparalleled, we can bring a uniquely-qualified specialist from anywhere in the U.S. or the world to help the client solve a problem.

Two, we’re global. We have nearly 200,000 professionals around the world and offices in every major country. As clients look internationally, we can facilitate both ends of that. Whether they are coming from Europe to the U.S., or the U.S. to Europe, we are omnipresent.

Deloitte AerospaceNext is we’re uniquely qualified–particularly in advising U.S. executive leadership–because we actually run a multi-billion dollar government contractor here in the U.S. and are working and have experience in dealing with those issues in real time.

Our competitors don’t have that combination of global presence, multi-industry and multi-capability, and direct government market experience at scale for the issues they are working on and have to deal with today.

 

Executive Mosaic: When some of these firms move into some of these international markets, what’s it like competing against foreign firms who are playing on their home turf?

Robin Lineberger: Now that’s the first real question: do firms all compete on a level playing field? Are they somehow getting tax advantage, subsidy advantage, loan advantage, and have frankly, an unfair competitive advantage when you would measure it by the global trade standards? There are bodies that review this.

But I think it’s the first legit question: are they doing that? Number two is, all things being equal, why wouldn’t they use one of their own country’s manufacturers to create jobs and bring the revenue home, rather than creating the jobs in another country?

So now you have the challenge of the macroeconomic environment, the desire for job creation, and of keeping it inside the borders. And then the third challenge is the politics. Are all markets really open to us given the political considerations between two countries?

 

Executive Mosaic: What are you most excited about moving forward?

Robin Lineberger: For me personally, it’s about working with many of the colleagues I’ve partnered with and helped work through their day-to-day issues. It’s really the excitement of problem solving, and the challenge of doing the work.

I think secondly what’s exciting is being relevant at a time of change and of need and asserting and bringing Deloitte’s capability to help stabilize the marketplace. If you get down to it, the problem solving and the intellectual challenges are certainly motivating, but at the macro level, if we can facilitate the competitiveness of U.S.-based aerospace and defense firms, be part of repositioning the defense industrial complex into a better and right place against a future market, that’s huge.

It’s really the impact we can have on the clients in the marketplace, and ultimately the United States. We don’t intend for there to be any failures or losses of the major capabilities the U.S. has today along this journey of rightsizing and repositioning service providers and platform providers to the government.

 

Executive Mosaic: Any Final Thoughts?

Robin Lineberger: As I look at the various career or market opportunities throughout my career, I’ve always sorted them out in a way that puts impact on our country first, particularly our country’s security.

So, leaving the military, going to work in advisory services and helping develop anti-submarine warfare technology in my first role at a time when the Soviets had a submarine lead, it’s a big deal. The evolution of that going forward was trying to find where my skill set can help and, certainly in this role, help our industrial complex excel, sustain and be as high-quality and cost-effective as possible.

It helps our nation have the best defense posture that we can have for the dollars we have to spend. So, I see it as fully aligned. It’s working in a different place in that overall market. Rather than working directly with the federal government, it’s working with the big corporations to see how we can help them traverse through this as well.

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