A hand-lettered sign taped to the wall outside the office door reading "Donald Rassier: president" seemed a bit inappropriate for the head of a large defense contractor.
On this recent morning, however, Ford Aerospace President Rassier was just settling in to his new office on the fifth floor of a Newport Beach high-rise. There hadn't been time to put up a formal-looking nameplate for his office.
Rassier, 59, came West when Ford Aerospace moved its headquarters from downtown Detroit to Newport Beach this summer to be closer to its customers and its own defense plants in Orange County and the Bay Area. About 50 staff members relocated to Newport Beach.
Though the headquarters move gives Ford Aerospace a higher profile in the county, the defense firm has had a major presence locally since 1960, when it located its Aeroneutronics division here.
Ford's Newport Beach plant has a work force of 3,000, and the company employs 4,500 others at its facilities in Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and Mountain View. Worldwide employment is 17,000.
Rassier, who is also a vice president of Ford Motor Co., was hired as Ford Aerospace's president in April, 1985. Before that he was executive vice president of Fairchild Industries and chief executive officer of the Aerospace Group. He spent 28 years in various posts with Rockwell International, most recently as vice president and general manager of Rockwell's missile systems division.
Ford Aerospace produces ground systems for NASA, commercial satellites, command, control, communications and intelligence equipment, and tactical weapons. The Aeroneutronics division produces the Sidewinder and Chaparral missiles, electro-optical systems and ammunition.
In a recent interview with Times staff writer David Olmos, Rassier discussed Ford Aerospace's operations in Orange County, the business outlook for his company and the defense industry in general, and the ongoing investigations into Pentagon fraud and abuse.
Q. In June, the Justice Department announced that it had searched the property of several consultants and government employees and 16 defense contractors as part of an investigation into possible corruption involving the Pentagon and private contractors. The investigation is continuing, although no indictments have yet been handed down. Do you think the ongoing Justice Department investigation into Pentagon procurement fraud and abuses will have a lasting impact on the defense industry?
A. I think the long-term impact will depend on whether or not it causes more legislation to be written to further regulate the industry. It's a very regulated industry now, and if you add more regulation to that it's going to slow things down. It's going to take longer to write specifications; it's going to take longer to make a contract; it's going to take longer to do anything. All that will have a negative impact. In my view, the industry doesn't need more regulation. I don't think the public really understands that. There have been a couple of instances where people allegedly have done bad things. The press continues to harp over those things time and again. People outside the industry are reading the papers and thinking, 'My God, the whole industry is bad.'
Q. What do you think is the best way for the defense industry to reduce fraud and abuses?
A Self-governance. Clearly the industry has to take care of what it's doing. It cannot run a sloppy shop. Companies have to have a high code of ethics. And they have to make sure that their people understand that (code of ethics). We (Ford Aerospace) have gone through an enormous amount of training to ensure that our management and our workers recognize that it's very important to do things in accordance with our code of ethics and in accordance with government parameters.
Q. Does Ford Aerospace have a code of ethics for its employees?