Thursday, March 29, 2007

Singapore Defense Firm Thrives in U.S.

Washington, D.C. - When he left the Army for the private sector in 2001, John Coburn had a résumé few could match: a four-star general with 39 years in the service, a combat veteran with a law degree, and, at the end of his Army career, a manager of a $19 billion materiel command with 50,000 employees in 28 countries.

So which company did Coburn join? Northrop Grumman? Lockheed Martin? Nope. Try VT Systems. The Alexandria, Va., company is the U.S. subsidiary of Singapore Technologies Engineering, a $2.9 billion (revenues) aerospace and defense concern ranked No. 1661 on the 2007 Forbes Global 2000.

“It was an opportunity to grow something,” says Coburn, 65, VT System’s chief executive. “I wanted to see how far I could take it.”

In sales term, he’s taken it fairly far. Since 2002, annual revenues at VT Systems have gone from $163 million to $788 million (for its fiscal year, ended last December). That increase has helped parent company ST Engineering turn in 17% annualized revenue growth over the past three years, a number bested only by L-3 Communications Holdings and Precision Castparts among the aerospace and defense industry components of our Forbes Global 2000 list.

The fortunes of VT Systems and its parent also underscore how the forces of globalization are as pertinent to the U.S. defense business as any other. “The U.S. is going to have to get used to this globally-integrated defense industrial base,” says James Lewis, analyst with Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Full story at