Save the Industrial Base

The Pentagon has agreed to keep talking with industry about whether the defense industrial base should be a factor in Quadrennial Defense Review and national strategy deliberations, according to the Aerospace Industries Association. The AIA yesterday released a study urging that it should be, noting that the Defense Department may be counting on intellectual or production capabilities that simply won’t be there in the future if they’re neglected now. The study, titled “The Unseen Cost: Industrial Base Consequences of Defense Strategy Choices” has been in the works since January. Its six recommendations call for an “institutionalized” inclusion of industrial base issues in all strategy reviews, due to the fact that the industry has changed significantly in the last decade. Depending on “market forces”—as has been US policy—to answer all US military needs won’t work, AIA president Marion Blakey told reporters in Arlington, Va. “We have been concerned for a number of years” that the relationship between the Pentagon and its suppliers has atrophied, she said, and the new Administration may not be operating with up-to-date knowledge about the true capabilities of today’s contractors. Some of today’s Pentagon decision-makers may have been out of the defense orbit so long they may not be aware that some companies have diversified or exited the business altogether or that the pressure to prop up shareholder value may cause companies to exit unprofitable markets, AIA officials said. However, Blakey noted there have been talks with both Bill Lynn, deputy secretary of defense, and Pentagon acquisition, technology, and logistics czar Ashton Carter, who seem receptive to the AIA’s suggestions. The AIA president said defense know-how in the US is “perishable” and that, regardless of strategic choices, the areas of rotary-wing design, long-range strike, space power, and overall science and technology investment have “degraded” and those sectors may not be able to provide what the Pentagon wants within required timeframes.