The U.S. Congress must be better educated on the benefits of international
trade, according to the Pentagon’s top procurement official.
“There is a two-way flow that is necessary,” Michael Wynne, acting
undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told National
Defense. “One is I have great respect for international industry and their
capabilities, so I think that we have to respond by educating Congress as to
what we get from international trade, not just what they think that international
companies get from us.”
From the Pentagon’s perspective, he said, transatlantic defense cooperation
will continue to play an essential role in furthering global security. Industrial
collaboration with allies is critical in improving joint capabilities, Wynne
said at an industry symposium in London, sponsored by the National Defense Industrial
European defense industries, for example, have much to contribute to U.S. defense
capabilities, with technologies ranging from turbine engine systems, micro-electromechanical
systems and composite material to subsystems such as high-pressure rocket propulsion
Transatlantic cooperation applies to more than big-ticket items, such as the
Joint Strike Fighter, he pointed out. It also materializes in personnel exchanges
and foreign comparative testing, he said.
Over the past two decades, the United States has evaluated 184 non-developmental
items from the United Kingdom alone. As a result, the Defense Department purchased
more than 50 items worth more than $2 billion from U.K. companies, avoiding
large costs for research and development, Wynne said.
“Foreign comparative tests and our fight against terrorism have revealed
that there are great products available all over the world from people who have
had this experience before,” he said.
Cooperation is possible despite roadblocks, such as restrictions to certain
technology transfers, said Wynne.
In the House-passed version for the 2005 defense authorization bill, the chairman
of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter, R-California, is pushing
for a measure that would ban industrial offsets—lucrative deals that foreign
governments require as a condition for buying U.S. systems and products. The
Bush administration opposes the bill.
“I will agree with Hunter that offset is a fundamental aberration,”
Wynne said. “However it really reflects the social aspiration of many
of our American industry’s customers.”
The United States also has a “lot of what I would call social imperatives
that are driven through the defense industry, and I think they have to realize
that America already has one of the strongest offset provisions in the ‘Buy
America’ provisions that are already embedded in law.”