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Policy Committees Offer Networking Venues 


by Benjamin Stone 

Corporate membership in NDIA carries with it many benefits, including opportunities to work on important issues that affect the defense industry. NDIA offers its members such opportunities primarily through the work of three divisions: International, Legislative Information and Procurement. NDIA’s government-policy office, which is responsible for tracking legislation and regulations that may affect the association’s members, provides operational support for these three divisions. As is the case with other NDIA divisions, participation in government-policy activities is limited to corporate members and government officials.

NDIA’s International Division offers members the opportunity to interact with government officials, both foreign and domestic, and international industry representatives. Recently, for example, NDIA—in conjunction with the Confederation of Indian Industry and the U.S.-India Business Council—hosted the U.S.-India Defense Industry Seminar. This forum brought together the key players from the U.S. and Indian Defense Departments, as well as industry representatives from the two countries to discuss security and cooperation issues.

At the NDIA seminar, Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, discussed major changes in the U.S.-India relationship and the private sector in India. For example, in September—after the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon—President Bush lifted the sanctions imposed on India four years ago by his predecessor.

During Indian Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s visit to the United States last November, he and Bush pledged to further improvements to Indo-U.S. relations, including a renewal of military-to-military ties. The revitalized joint US-India Defense Policy Group resumed meeting after five years of inactivity.

The Indian government decided in recent months to permit that country’s private sector to expand into defense production. Since then, U.S. defense companies have shown renewed interest in Indian business opportunities. In January, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes hosted a roundtable breakfast in Washington, D.C., with representatives of the U.S. defense industrial base.

Legislative Information
The Legislative Information Division gives NDIA members access to key members of Congress and their staffs, as well as government and industry executives. The division also provides opportunities to obtain timely legislative information. At division meetings, experts conduct briefings on selected topics, followed by informative question-and-answer sessions. Small settings—recent average attendance is 60—coupled with frequency of meetings—twice a month while Congress is in session—and a not-for-attribution forum provide ample opportunity for participation.

Recent topics have ranged from the defense budget to homeland security, from campaign-finance reform to technology-security policy. While NDIA’s members benefit from informative updates and networking opportunities, government officials can also gauge industry’s support for or opposition to proposed legislation. To date, over 250 defense companies have participated in the division’s meetings, ranging from large aerospace firms to small, specialized service providers.

For Procurement Division members, brief-ings held six times a year with the Director of Defense Procurement (DDP) provide a much-valued opportunity to discuss issues and problems of mutual concern to industry and the Department of Defense.

These conversations take place in small, informal settings, with no more than 10-15 rotating attendees, providing a low-key setting for a meaningful exchange of ideas. Specific topics or questions are submitted by industry attendees in advance to allow the DDP staff time to prepare complete responses, often accompanied by point papers to lead the discussions. However, industry attendees are welcome to introduce new topics at any time they wish, even during the briefings.

Earlier this year, in a departure from the traditional question-and-answer format, the DDP asked defense-related associations to submit a list of top 10 issues for 2002. After eliminating duplications and combining similar topics, the DDP staff office produced a compendium of top issues that was distributed at the May briefing.

Attendees were requested to review the document, reduce the number of issues to five critical topics, and submit these along, with an industry-recommended action plan for each. The final list and recommendations will be presented to the DDP at the July 15th briefing.

Since Department of Defense officials and industry representatives usually agree on what issues are important and often concur on how to address them, by focusing on five critical topics and developing agreed-upon action plans, government and industry will be better able to work together to achieve results beneficial to all.

Other examples of direct industry interface with government decision-makers are the regularly scheduled briefings by the Office of the Federal Procurement Policy Administrator and the Deputy Associate Administrator for Acquisition Policy at the General Services Administration. Industry representatives also meet twice a year with the Director, Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) and with other senior DCMA staff members to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern.

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