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Pentagon: First Ever National Defense Strategy More than an “Aspirational” Document – Setting Stage for Concrete Steps

As followers of ARPN well know, too often in Washington, DC, strategy documents released by the government are not much more than “aspirational” statements postulating lofty goals with little substance.

Having released its first-ever National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS), Defense Department representatives are adamant that in light of the urgency of the situation, things are different.

The NDIS, they said at the official on-the-record press briefing, “is more than just an aspirational document. It outlines a strategic vision for what we need to meet our war fighters’ needs,” and will be followed up with a “detailed classified implementation plan with near-term, measurable actions and metrics to gauge progress.”

Four long-term strategic priorities serve as “guiding beacons for industrial action and resource prioritization in support of development of this modernized defense industrial ecosystem.” According to DoD’s fact sheet on the NDIS

  1. Resilient supply chains (…) can securely produce the products, services and technologies needed now and in the future at speed, scale, and cost.
  2. Workforce readiness will provide for a sufficiently skilled, and staffed workforce that is diverse and representative of America.
  3. Flexible acquisition will lead to the development of strategies that strive for dynamic capabilities while balancing efficiency, maintainability, customization and standardization in defense platform and support systems. Flexible acquisition strategies would result in reduced development times, reduced cost, and increased scalability.
  4. Economic deterrence will promote fair and effective market mechanisms that support a resilient defense industrial ecosystem among the U.S. and close international allies and partners and economic security and integrated deterrence. As a result of effective economic deterrence, fear of materially reduced access to U.S. markets, technologies and innovations will sow doubt in the mind of potential aggressors.

To strengthen supply chains, the strategy, as summarized by John A. Tirpak for Air and Space Forces Magazine, calls for:

  • Incentivizing contractors to invest in extra capacity
  • DOD to do a better job anticipating and managing needed stockpiles
  • Expanding domestic production and widening the base of industries on which the DOD draws
  • The use of data analytics to understand where the lowest-tier suppliers are, expand their numbers and help ensure their survival, as well as invest in their cybersecurity.

All of these measures represent corrective actions without which the U.S. and its allies might not be able to “adapt to new and emerging threat environments” at a time when the defense industrial base risks facing program-delaying material shortfalls.

At a time when geopolitical tensions continue to soar and rhetoric in the Tech War between China and the United States continues to sharpen, the prospect of a strategy backed up by specific action is a promising development, but of course, the proof is in the pudding.

ARPN will keep tabs on the implementation of the NDIS in the coming months, with a special emphasis of the announced increased leveraging of so far “underutilized” authority under the Defense Production Act, which Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy Dr. Laura D. Taylor-Kale says would give industry “more consistent demand signals” to confidently anticipate and prepare for Pentagon needs.”

The full press briefing transcript for the NDIS release can be accessed here, while the full text of the strategy and NDIS Fact Sheet sheet can be downloaded here.