New defense industrial strategy calls for U.S., ally partnerships

United States Strategic Command

A strong defense industrial ecosystem in the 21st century requires robust partnerships among the United States and its Allies and Partners, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) said in a new report.

The National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS), released in January 2024, is the first of its kind produced by the DOD and will guide efforts to strengthen and modernize the U.S. defense industrial base, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said in a news release. The strategy “will help ensure we build the modern defense industrial and innovation ecosystem that’s required” to defend the U.S., its Allies and Partners, and their shared interests in the 21st century.

The strategy takes its lead from the U.S. National Defense Strategy released in October 2022, identifies risks to the defense industrial base and recommends solutions. It calls for long-term enhancements in four main areas: supply chain resilience, workforce readiness, flexible acquisition and economic deterrence.

Resilient supply chains        

The NDIS calls for policies that will facilitate the development of “multiple, redundant production lines across a consortium of like-minded nations” to mitigate the risk of supply chain disruptions. The DOD will also seek greater interoperability among manufacturers and systems, including when working across forces and with Allies and Partners. The plan also calls for improving the foreign military sales process by reducing production timelines and accelerating review and acquisition processes.

Workforce readiness

The DOD will work with international partners to share workforce training and management lessons and identify opportunities for enhanced collaborations. The department aims to enhance recruitment and training programs for defense-critical skills in manufacturing, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, with a broadened focus on nontraditional communities including women and minorities.

Flexible acquisition

The NDIS calls for acquisition strategies that would reduce development times and costs, increase scalability, and improve interoperability. When feasible, DOD programs will use commercial off-the-shelf capabilities, such as anti-jamming antennas and drones, instead of highly customized products. If customized capabilities are required, the department will work with the commercial sector and its industrial base, including Allies and Partners, to increase use of industry standards versus platform-specific standards.

Economic deterrence

The DOD seeks to counter attempts by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and other adversaries to control markets, including potentially limiting access to commodities and materials critical to the defense industrial base. The strategy calls for the U.S. and its Allies and Partners to facilitate a defense industrial ecosystem that guards against unfair trade practices and eliminates dependencies on sourcing components from adversarial states. The NDIS also calls for the DOD and other federal agencies to strengthen alliances to share science and technology, increase cybersecurity, and deter adversarial ownership of U.S. and allied assets.

Defense leaders from around the world met recently to discuss collaborating on NDIS goals. The workshop, held at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii, focused on building defense industrial resilience and included representatives from Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

“We are working closely with Allies and Partners across the Indo-Pacific and beyond to build a more dynamic, innovative, resilient, and productive defense industrial base,” said Jed Royal, the U.S. principal deputy assistant defense secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs. “More than ever, defense industrial base cooperation is a key part of our shared regional vision for peace, stability, and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

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