PRESIDENT'S PERSPECTIVE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
National Defense Is Not a Political Issue
For almost 100 years, the National Defense Industrial Association has represented the industrial base and provided a critical contribution to the national security dialogue.
As an association, it has thrived in its mission, largely due to an enduring commitment to be the “honest broker” in bringing government, industry and academia together to support our warfighters and ensure the safety and security of this great nation.
Through 18 different administrations, seven major conflicts, more than a dozen significant armed interventions and numerous domestic crises, NDIA has been a non-partisan voice supporting our industrial base and the American “arsenal of freedom.”
That business — the safety and security of the nation — must be conducted in an atmosphere that is apolitical and guided solely by the best interests of the men and women that willingly go into harm’s way on the nation’s behalf.
As I settle into my role as president and CEO of this well-respected defense industry association, rest assured that we will continue our long-honored tradition of being an apolitical organization. In fact, I intend to double down on this principle because the times demand it.
National defense and homeland security are not, and should never be, “political issues.” A democratic and open government has a moral obligation to protect its citizens and their way of life. This at its core means that supporting national defense and homeland security is a nonpartisan issue that should be raised into a national dialogue and be the first objective of our elected officials. It is not a Democrat versus Republican debate, or a center of the country versus East and West Coast discussion. We are all Americans first, particularly when it comes to the common defense and protection of citizens. As I begin my leadership here at NDIA, that is my message to the 72 professionals that so ably serve 28 divisions, 26 chapters, working groups and affiliates.
I know that most people truly attempt to stay apolitical in the national defense dialogue. A great example of this, and one for which I have personal experience, are the armed services committees in Congress. My personal belief is that the Senate Armed Services Committee and House Armed Services Committee are the two most bipartisan committees in Congress, and their work is focused squarely on ensuring the men and women in uniform are provided the best equipment, training and infrastructure that we can offer.
The way in which the two committees work across the aisle to address the military’s biggest and most difficult issues should translate to how the full Senate and House of Representatives tackle the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act and the two chambers’ appropriations bills. The fact that for the last several years the Defense Department has been forced to operate under continuing resolutions has been devastating to U.S. military preparedness.
But this is an all-hands effort and one that deserves constant reinforcement, particularly for those of us that live and work inside the Beltway. We must evaluate the potential threats and try to predict what the military will face. Then we must determine the capability and capacity they need to conduct the missions we ask them to do.
The point of my discussion here is that we have to do this work in a nonpartisan, apolitical way and that is very difficult. It can be extremely challenging to stay nonpartisan in this environment — to say the least.
In my view, bipartisanship is difficult for three main reasons. First is the environment we live in today. Like it or not social media, instant feedback from all corners of the globe, and “facts” that are either not supported or unverified, being believed by many simply because “we read it on the net” is pushing people to more partisan rhetoric. This has created an environment where many people are compelled to respond instantly, which can escalate disagreements rapidly, usually without an in-depth thought process or measured response and can lead to hyperbole.
The second challenge is personality-driven. When we allow personalities and past experiences to cloud clear and open dialogue, the process suffers. We must focus on the content, not the delivery — do not let the person delivering the message distort your view of the actual message.
Lastly, and probably the most difficult to overcome, is bias, which is defined as “prejudice in favor of or against one thing, a thought, a person or a group compared with another.”
We all have biases, this is simply part of human nature. We need to acknowledge how bias is affecting thoughts and actions and force ourselves to see the other point of view. Overcoming these obstacles to good faith dialogue and negotiation starts with their recognition and the understanding that these are all related to human nature — and therefore can be overcome.
Of course it’s not easy. We all have experiences and beliefs that have shaped our opinions, but when it comes to national security and homeland defense, the process will only be well-served in a non-partisan way.
For nearly a century, NDIA and its precursor organizations have been at the forefront of joining industry, government and academia to ensure our national defense.
Today, we champion issues that contribute to the strength, resiliency and capacity of the industrial base. We work hard to build a vigorous, responsive and collaborative community in support of defense and national security.
We believe in legal and ethical forums for the exchange of ideas, information, viewpoints and capabilities. We believe the dialogue on national defense and homeland security transcends politics and must be this nation’s highest priority.