BREAKING: New Defense Industrial Strategy Calls for ‘Generational Change’
Defense Dept. photo
It took a generation for the defense industrial base to arrive at the state it is in, and it will take another generation to fix it, the Pentagon’s new “National Defense Industrial Strategy,” released Jan. 11, stated.
“The DoD seeks to catalyze generational rather than incremental change in order for our industrial base to meet the strategic moment,” the strategy stated.
The strategy arrives in the post-COVID-19 world where the pandemic highlighted the defense supply chain’s inadequacies, and during two wars in Ukraine and Israel that have resulted in the government asking defense manufacturers to surge production.
But the weakening of the defense industrial base, or DIB, began long before the pandemic, the strategy pointed out.
“The contraction of the traditional DIB (both commercial and organic) was a generation-long process, and it will require another generation to modernize the DIB,” the strategy stated. “The DoD cannot address the current challenges alone. Defense production and services are part of a vast, diverse and global ecosystem that draws from technology and manufacturing sectors.”
“While America continues to generate the world’s most capable weapons systems, it must have the capacity to produce those capabilities at speed and scale to maximize our advantage,” it stated.
The report came with 25 recommendations under four categories: making supply chains more resilient; boosting the workforce; making the acquisition system more flexible; and economic deterrence.
Regarding resiliency, the strategy called for the Defense Department to incentivize industry to invest in extra capacity, which includes diversifying suppliers.
“The DoD will seek to establish risk-sharing mechanisms and technology-sharing structures to jointly fund, develop and secure spare production capacity. The DoD will also plan for needed spare production capacity and to provide oversight authority to ensure successful development and sustainment follow-through,” the strategy stated.
The strategy also called for the Pentagon to do a better job of stockpiling critical components and critical minerals and identifying which of these need to be held in reserve.
The strategy did not mention the controversial Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program, which seeks to enforce network security standards on any company doing business with the Defense Department that handles sensitive information. CMMC has been controversial because of the perceived high costs to comply with cybersecurity standards.
However, in order to expand the industrial base, the strategy said the department would help small businesses and startups mitigate the cost of cybersecurity.
As for workforce readiness, the strategy recommended increasing access to apprenticeships and internships, expanding recruitment in nontraditional communities and to “destigmatize” industrial careers.
“Often people believe these jobs are low-wage, low-skilled, monotonous and dangerous, and that they are a poor alternative to non-industrial jobs. In fact, industrial jobs contribute directly to the national security mission while being interesting and providing stability and competitive wages,” the strategy said
As for making acquisitions more flexible — a longtime goal of the defense community — the strategy repeated recommendations that have been seen in numerous previous reports and strategies, including prioritizing off-the-shelf products, promoting open architectures and using flexible contracting authorities.
The “Economic Deterrence” section addressed some of the risks posed by the People’s Republic of China.
“The DoD is deeply concerned about the PRC’s domination of critical markets. Such domination allows it to control commodity pricing and access to materials in strategically critical areas, and to erode the health of the heavy industries that the defense sector historically leveraged,” the strategy stated.
The strategy called for sourcing from countries that are geopolitical allies — “friend-shoring” — to reduce reliance on potentially adversarial or unstable nations for critical defense and strategic materials.
It also recommended boosting cooperation among allies under organizations such as NATO and agreements such as AUKUS — the Australia, United Kingdom, U.S. agreement to build nuclear-powered submarines and cooperation in a host of other emerging technologies.