What’s Really At Risk?

“I’m worried about the industrial base,” Pentagon Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Chief Frank Kendall said last week. Speaking at the COMDEF 2014 conference in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 3, Kendall said he’s been meeting with industry leaders about how to preserve “key suppliers” and design teams—particularly in “high performance aircraft” and ship design—after the current backlog of programs has been worked off. He’s not “terribly worried about the financial health of the industry” because the defense budget will still be large, and the “bigger firms will be fine,” but he frets about the small and “niche” businesses “that are very sensitive to the level of business that they receive.” He’s said previously that as budgets decline, and there are longer gaps between programs, small companies may not be able to wait for the next order of specialty items. While he’s resolved that, “We will try to take action,” Kendall said the Pentagon’s flexibility to do so “is … going to be very limited” because of the limited funding available. He’ll also be trying to lure commercial vendors who don’t normally do defense work into the system, “so we can capitalize on those.” (See also Kendall: Air Force POM “Balanced” and Other Services Hanging on Too Tight)