America's military strength remains vital to preserving the
nation's interests and sustaining international stability. While
much of this strength is derived from the professionalism and
skills of America's armed forces, the technologically superior
military platforms that the U.S. has developed and fielded since
World War II are also vital to ensuring a superior fighting
In both peace and war, America's defense manufacturing
industrial base has allowed the United States to design and build
an advanced array of weapons systems and platforms to meet the full
spectrum of potential missions the military may be called upon to
fulfill. Securing America's military dominance for the decades
ahead will require:
- An industrial base that can retain a highly skilled workforce
with critical skill sets and
- Sustained investment in platforms that offer future commanders
and civilian leaders a vital set of core military capabilities and
equipment to respond to any threat.
America's military may also benefit from a more open
international defense market. A 2005 Heritage Foundation study
examined the effect of globalization on the defense market and
concluded that access to foreign suppliers would play a significant
and positive role in helping the Pentagon to access a broader
industrial base and meet immediate defense needs more
efficiently. These findings still hold true today. While
remaining focused on the critical technologies, industries, and
skills that are not readily available in the global market,
Congress should also support increased foreign military sales to
help complement America's domestic defense industrial base.
Following the sweeping procurement changes proposed by Secretary
of Defense Robert Gates in President Barack Obama's fiscal year
(FY) 2010 defense budget, the decisions awaiting congressional
review will directly affect America's defense industrial base for
years to come. These funding decisions about what the military will
and will not buy are a primary factor in determining whether
America will retain its military primacy a decade from now.
The critical workforce ingredients in sustaining an industrial
base capable of building next-generation systems are specialized
design, engineering, and manufacturing skills. The consolidation of
the defense industry during the 1990s has placed an increased
burden on a small collection of defense companies, and the
consolidation of major defense contractors has led to a general
reduction in the number of available workers.
Already at a turning point, the potential closure of major
defense manufacturing lines in the next five years with no
additional scheduled production could shrink this national asset
even further. While the manufacturing workforce alone should not
dictate congressional defense acquisition decisions, the potential
defense "brain drain" must be considered when Congress determines
whether or not to permanently shut down major production
lines--particularly shipbuilding and aerospace. More often than
not, once these highly skilled workers exit the federal workforce,
they are difficult to recruit back and more expensive to retrain
with significant project gaps.
Given the inherently unpredictable nature of the international
security system, Congress must take a long-term perspective for
defense planning. More specifically, Congress should closely
examine the national security implications of the pending closure
of several major production lines, including the F-22 Raptor, C-17
Globemaster III, F/A-18E/F, F-15E Strike Eagle, High Mobility
Artillery Rocket System, Airborne Laser, and various rotary-wing
programs when crafting the annual defense bills for FY 2010.
The Foundation of American Military
Since World War II, the United States has benefited from the
skills of a robust defense industrial and manufacturing workforce.
Over six decades, various U.S. defense strategies have emphasized
the benefits of a technologically superior military to help deter
and win wars. This "technical overmatch" has been pursued by the
U.S. military for decades in an attempt to deter potential enemies
from engaging the U.S. in conflict and to reduce risk and the loss
of life on the battlefield.
The ability to maintain America's military technological edge
reflects the superior efficiency of America's defense industry.
America's capital-intensive Air Force and Navy operate the world's
best fighter aircraft, long-range bombers, aircraft carriers,
destroyers, cruisers, and submarines. Similarly, the Army is
building a host of next-generation platforms, including tanks and
attack helicopters, that will allow it to complete its missions.
This is also the case in platform systems and areas such as
low-observable and very-low-observable technologies, submarine
quieting, acoustic detection, digital-signal processing for a range
of applications, active electronically scanned arrays,
near-real-time sensor-to-shooter targeting connectivity, and
all-weather guided munitions.
technology alone has not assured American military
superiority, the defense industry has nevertheless been a potent
enabler of American military might. The base of this power can be
found in a series of core capabilities that the U.S. has been able
to maintain and continue to modernize over recent decades. These
include, among others, air dominance, strategic lift, the ability
to project power throughout and beyond the world's oceans,
counterinsurgency proficiency, and the ability to seize and control
land. Maintaining these capabilities has enabled the soldier,
sailor, airman, and Marine to remain adequately prepared for a full
spectrum of potential operations.
Defense Industrial Base Challenges
Following the onset of the Cold War, the U.S. examined the
intentions of the Soviet Union and determined that "persistent
crisis, conflict, and expansion are the essence of the Kremlin's
militancy." Based on this assumption, the U.S.
government invested considerable resources in maintaining a
large-scale peacetime military force to provide a global military
presence that could contain and, if necessary, defeat Soviet
aggression. Barry Watts of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary
Assessments has outlined how the defense industry has evolved since
- Formation and early growth after World War II (1945-1960);
- Stabilization as a distinct industry during the Cold War
- Post-Cold War fundamental restructuring (1990-2007).
The growth of the defense industry after World War II peaked in
the late 1950s when defense production became a leading sector of
the national economy, a trend that would continue well into the
1980s. An increased focus on the development of advanced defense
technologies also occurred during this period. By 1960, the federal
government was responsible for 58 percent of the nation's research
and development investments. This emphasis required a new level of
engineering skills and capabilities within the industry to help
develop the complex defense systems the government sought to
When the Cold War ended in 1991, the sudden supposed dissolution
of national security threats launched a period of intense
downsizing and consolidation. Whereas more than 50 major defense
firms dominated the market in the early 1990s, only six prime
contractors remained by the end of the decade. Although this trend
started in 1985 when defense spending began to decline, it became
more significant in the 1990s under President Bill Clinton and a
sustained period of reduced defense spending.
The effects of the 1990s procurement holiday and the subsequent
consolidation were immediate. From 1990 to 2000, both the number of
major surface combatant shipbuilders and the number of fixed-wing
aircraft developers fell from eight to three; the number of
tactical missile producers fell from 13 to three; and the number of
tracked-combat vehicle developers fell from three to two. Today,
there are just two companies--Boeing and Lockheed Martin--that
build U.S. fighter aircraft.
Because Boeing's F-18E/F fighter production line is set to shut
down in the coming years, it is possible that soon only one fighter
manufacturer will exist in the entire United States. Further
defense spending reductions and industry consolidations would all
but eliminate competition for major programs, depriving the
military and taxpayers of the innovative benefits and cost savings
that cannot be achieved with sole-source production.
Major Congressional Decisions
Over the next several years, a series of defense programs are
scheduled to complete production, either before the original
military requirement is completed or without any immediate
follow-on program in place to maintain steady workforce levels
between programs. The impact that the loss of these programs will
have on America's highly skilled defense industrial workforce and
the nation's ability to retain core military capabilities and
technologies is a significant concern that Congress must
In order to assess the significance of these decisions
adequately, Congress must evaluate the history of these programs,
the national cost of losing critical capabilities when a line
closes permanently, and what would be required to restart
production or evaluate alternative options to avoid any dip in
F-22A Raptor. In January 2008, following the grounding of
the entire F-15 fleet, General John Corley, head of the U.S. Air
Force's Air Combat Command, commented that he "had a fleet that is
100 percent fatigued and 40 percent of that has bad parts. The
long-term future of the F-15 is in question." For decades, the
F-15 has served as America's preeminent fourth-generation tactical
fighter, ensuring that the nation retains the core capability of
air superiority that has served as a cornerstone of its predominant
military position. This remarkable capability has also ensured that
not a single soldier or Marine has lost his life in combat due to a
threat from the air in over half a century.
The Air Force originally planned to purchase 700 F-22As to
replace the fleet of 800 F-15A-Ds and the recently retired F-117
Nighthawk bomber, but the required number of F-22s was
dramatically reduced over the past two decades to 442 in 1993, to
339 in 1997, and finally to 184 in President George W. Bush's FY
2009 defense budget request. Although the Air Force has maintained
a requirement for 381 Raptors in recent years, Air Force Chief of
Staff General Norton Schwartz recently stated that this level was
"too high." He has since noted that the Air Force requirement is
for 243 F-22s, but the service can only afford 187 because of a
lack of funds.
Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
also recently stated that the Air Force would like 243 F-22As,
approximately 60 more than currently budgeted. On April 6, however,
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced the Administration's
intention to end production of the F-22 at 187 aircraft.
Two weeks later, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Air Force
Chief Norton Schwartz followed suit by concluding that they agreed
with Gates's plans and assumptions given the zero-sum budget
quandary they face.
In fact, unless Congress intervenes, the F-22 program will end
production at 186 fighters as opposed to the 187 program of record.
This is because the March 2009 crash of an F-22 at Edwards Air
Force Base in California involved a test aircraft that was "not
part of the official program of record," according to Air Force
spokesman Karen Platt.
Building the F-22A fifth-generation fighter takes three years.
During the first year, long-lead items, including the radar and
electronic warfare subsystems, are funded through advanced
procurement. In the second year of production, the subsystems are
completed and the major sub-assemblies of the aircraft are built.
Finally, assembly of the aircraft occurs in Marietta, Georgia, in
the third year.
The FY 2009 defense authorization and appropriations bills
provided funding for Lot 7 through Lot 9, with Lot 9 beginning the
second year of production in 2010. Congress also provided an
additional $523 million to the Air Force either for long-lead items
for an additional 20 aircraft in Lot 10 or to begin permanently
closing the production line. Only $140 million of this was to be
made available until PresidentObamachose whether to continue or
terminate the program. Given that President Obama's FY 2010 budget
request ends production at 186 aircraft, the long-lead production
that generally takes place in the first year will not occur in
2010, and the entire line will be closed by December 2011.
Not releasing the funds for the long-lead production items
approved last year has serious implications for America's defense
industrial base. There are more than 25,000 direct American jobs
with 1,000 suppliers in 44 states that help build these advanced
fighter jets, and more than 70,000 other jobs are tied indirectly
to the program. The highly technical jobs that make up the program
form the basis for America's specialized aerospace industry. Many
of the smaller companies involved in the initial long-lead
production phase rely on the program for the bulk of their business
and will be the first to be negatively affected if Congress does
not reverse President Obama's proposal and fund Lot 10. Indeed,
work for third- and fourth-tier F-22 suppliers is "already drying
Shutting down the F-22 production line while also potentially
closing other lines in the next few years--including the F-18,
F-16, and C-17, as well as full-rate production of the F-35, which
is not expected to commence until 2012--could further affect
America's aerospace workforce as the market for highly skilled
aerospace jobs continues to diminish. The gap between F-22 and F-35
production is of particular concern. Because these programs share
approximately 75 percent of suppliers who have specialized in
fifth-generation platforms, a two- or three-year gap in production
would threaten the supply base and truncate the next generation of
aerospace designers, engineers, and manufacturers.
Indeed, the supplier base may be most affected by the Pentagon's
decisions to end programs with no follow-on production, yet
suppliers are often lost in the shadow of the larger defense firms
that are critical to the health of the defense industrial base. The
2009 Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress
[T]he lower-tier supplier industrial base continues to
consolidate. Suppliers not associated with future production
programs (for example, suppliers not participating in the F-35 or
UH-60M) will be impacted the most. These suppliers will be forced
to either exit the business or find new DoD or non-DoD programs for
The deterioration of the supplier base, even if it is determined
that, as Secretary Gates has said, "U.S. predominance in
conventional warfare...is sustainable for the mediumterm given
current trends," is sure to have a lasting impact on the
nation's ability to maintain its predominant position in the
decades ahead as U.S. military power inevitably diminishes.
During his April 6 press conference, Secretary Gates addressed
the transition between F-22 and F-35 production and how it will
affect the workforce. Noting that F-22 jobs will decline to 19,000
in FY 2010 and 13,000 in FY 2011, he emphasized that the F-35
program already directly employs 38,000 people. This number will
increase to 64,000 in FY 2010 and 82,000 in FY 2011.
What Secretary Gates failed to mention, however, is that these
production lines are in different states. The implicit assumption
that the production workforce in Marietta, Georgia, will be willing
or able to move to Fort Worth, Texas, in order to work there is
flawed. There is no Pentagon guarantee that these jobs can even be
shifted on a one-to-one basis. Even if there was a guarantee that
no net job losses would occur, there is no reason to believe that
workers in Georgia would uproot their families and that they could
sell their homes in order to move even if they wanted to do so.
For the past three decades, the United States has maintained two
or three active production lines of fighter aircraft at all times.
Given the potential closure of the F-18 and F-15 lines, combined
with the three-year gap before full-rate production of the F-35,
prematurely closing the F-22 line could jeopardize America's
ability to hedge against potential miscalculations of the future
threat environment. Over the past decade, Congress has put its
money where its mouth is by repeatedly emphasizing the importance
of competition in defense production. If additional annual funding
for an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter is important
to Congress, there is no doubt that Congress should care deeply
about maintaining more than a single fighter production line.
Competition encourages contractor innovation and produces better
products for the warfighter while saving taxpayer money in the long
If Congress allows President Obama to prevail with the decision
to cap F-22s at 186, in reality, this translates to only roughly
100 "combat-coded" F-22s available for operations at any one
time. Yet more than 30 air campaign studies
over the past 15 years have confirmed a minimum requirement for 260
Raptors. Even when considering the Air Force's current F-22 and
F-35 procurement plans, a likely gap of up to 800 fighters is
projected to occur around 2024. Although the F-22A is the
world's sole fifth-generation fighter, numerous studies have
concluded that the quality of the platform can be stretched only so
far in making up for a lack of quantity, specifically in a Chinese
anti-access scenario in the Taiwan Strait. A shortfall of
aircraft would also prevent the Air Force from filling out the
service's 10 Air Expeditionary Forces (AEFs), undermining the
stability of the AEFs by ensuring the need to rotate F-22s on an
The considerable investment the U.S. has made in the F-22
program over the past two decades has brought the program to a
point where it is now at its most affordable level. After a
development cost of $40 billion, the flyaway cost of one plane has
been reduced by 35 percent, to about $191 million per aircraft.
There is also an additional and significant cost burden to
America's taxpayers to fund new production at a future date if
Congress ever chose to reopen the line.
As a substitute for the F-22, Secretary Gates and others in the
defense and think tank community have advocated purchasing more
F-35s. Any such equation is insufficient, however, because the
aircraft are complementary with only some overlapping capabilities.
These two fighters are designed and built to complete many unique
The F-22, a larger and more maneuverable aircraft, was meant to
fulfill air dominance missions, thereby clearing the skies for the
multi-role strike mission of the F-35. Indeed, this complementary
mission set specifically assumed that the F-22 would be available
in sufficient quantity to provide air cover for the F-35. Without
enough F-22s to eliminate any air-to-air and surface-to-air
threats, the F-35 will become increasingly and unnecessarily
vulnerable. The F-22 also clears the skies for intelligence,
surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms otherwise threatened by
advanced surface-to-air missiles placed along border regions during
combat to provide critical information to commanders on the
C-17 Globemaster III. The Pentagon relies on the C-17
Globemaster III, C-5 Galaxy, and C-130 Hercules aircraft to perform
the inter-theater airlift mission. Along with the traditional
roles that airlift has played, expanded ground operations as part
of global counterterrorism and counterinsurgency missions have
placed a renewed emphasis on the airlift mission.
Strategic airlift has become so important that "preserving
global reach in the air," specifically by the C-17 aircraft, was
singled out by President Obama as a defense priority on his
presidential campaign Web site and then again on the White House
Web site after his inauguration. In direct contradiction to
this stated priority, President Obama's first budget request for FY
2010 recommends ending production of the C-17 at 205 aircraft.
The C-17--the only remaining military wide-body aircraft still
in production in the U.S.--is manufactured by Boeing to carry
169,000 pounds of equipment, including the Abrams tank and Apache
helicopter. Although it comprises 60 percent of the airlift fleet,
it flies more than 80 percent of all strategic airlift missions. It
has been used in military operations everywhere from Bosnia and
Kosovo to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The C-17 benefits from its ability to operate from austere
airfields, including dirt runways, making it invaluable in the
tactical airlift role as well. Following an increase in
attacks on U.S. and coalition convoys in Iraq in 2004, for
instance, the C-17 was used alongside the C-130 to relieve 350
vehicles per week. Just this week, two C-17s were used to
deliver aid to Pakistan as part of a humanitarian relief effort.
The C-17's performance characteristics are also significantly
better than those of other cargo-transport aircraft.
The C-17 is built by more than 30,000 workers and supported by
an additional 700 suppliers. From reaching initial operating
capability in 1995 through the FY 2008 emergency supplemental
spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan, 205 C-17s have been
purchased. Canada, the United Kingdom, and Qatar
have already placed orders, and the United Arab Emirates has
entered negotiations to purchase the aircraft. However, if Congress
does not fund the procurement of additional C-17s in the current
pending supplemental for the second half of FY 2009 or the FY 2010
defense budget, this line will begin closing this year due to the
34-month supplier lead time to build a C-17.
The costs of choosing to restart the line after it has already
been closed are immense. A 2006 U.S. Department of Commerce study
on the C-17 found that "the cost of closing down the Long Beach
[California] site, restarting at a new site in the United States,
and then having to close it down again after a short production
run--is about $5.7 billion." Restart costs for any line
are significant and are another consideration Congress must take
into account when making critical funding decisions in this year's
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-15E Strike Eagle. One of the
main consequences of the 1990s defense consolidation has been the
increased sensitivity of defense contractors to minor fluctuations
in the industrial base. The defense industrial base is indeed
interconnected and dependent on multiple programs. Ending the C-17
and F-18 production lines within one year of each other would have
a dramatic impact on the defense industrial base.
The 2009 Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to
Congress warned that "with the announcement of the C-17 program
shutdown, coupled with the end of domestic F/A-18E/F production in
FY 2012, the industrial base infrastructure at Long Beach, CA, and
St. Louis, MO (solely supporting foreign military sales) may have
insufficient business to continue in place." The negative
consequences of closing even the C-17 line--both for this highly
skilled workforce and for U.S. national security--clearly run
deeper than the cancellation of a single program.
"Over the next 10 years," warned the 2008 Industrial
Capabilities Report, "multiple military aircraft production
lines will go cold precipitating the need for a new round of
consolidation in order to reduce infrastructure costs."
According to Darryl Davis, President of Boeing's Advance Systems
unit, "The technology base is eroding for Boeing as [the company]
moves late into the next decade." Losing any defense-related
technology base within the next year while defense strategies are
being crafted internally at the Pentagon makes little sense.
Congress should consider the cost savings that result from leaving
the country's options open while additional major defense
procurement decisions are made throughout this year.
The combined impact of reduced procurement budgets, a dwindling
number of aircraft programs, and the delay of new programs like a
sixth-generation fighter or long-range bomber places further
pressure on Boeing and its workforce. This is why Congress should
be concerned about the potential closure of even just one or two
lines and how these closures will relate to Boeing's ability to
compete for military aircraft contracts in the future. "While
Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky have current programs that will remain
in production for the next 20 years, Boeing's future participation
in the fighter/ attack and transport segments is more problematic
without the support of foreign military sales to keep existing
production lines open."
Congress has repeatedly demonstrated its preference for
competition for major programs like destroyers. It should consider
the potential for increased costs due to lack of competitionwith
only one remaining fighter production company left in America,
which will be the result if these recommendations are approved.
Under current defense authorization plans, the F/A-18E/F
production line will shut down in 2013, with long-lead production
items and their suppliers affected as early as next year. The F-18
program employs 100,000 people and depends on 1,900 suppliers
across 46 states. The F-15 production line, which employs
55,000 people and has a total of 383 suppliers, also faces
potential closure depending on the outcome of a pending sale to
When the potential Lockheed-Northrop merger threatened to reduce
the number of tactical aircraft providers from two to one in the
late 1990s, Congress wisely opposed the plan. Why should today be
any different? The end of the F/A-18E/F and various F-15 lines in
the coming years would translate into a deliberate consolidation of
the tactical aircraft industrial base to just one manufacturer. A
projected gap in tactical aircraft in the next decade, coupled with
the potential for instability in the F-35 production program,
enhances the prudence of maintaining the current "hot" tactical
aircraft production lines, at least into the middle of the
High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. The High Mobility
Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) is a wheeled, indirect-fire
platform capable of firing the guided multiple-launch rocket system
and Army tactical missiles. It is currently used by both the Army
and Marine Corps and has been deployed as part of Operation Iraqi
HIMARS is built in Camden, Arkansas, by a workforce of 125
personnel. Other components are produced in Texas, New Jersey,
Florida, and Alabama. Although the program is expected to remain in
the field until 2050, funding for additional platforms is set to
end in FY 2011, with full closure of the production facility in
Arkansas scheduled for 2013. Congress should consider
the potential costs of maintaining and repairing a system that will
be used by U.S. troops for 40 more years when the line and its
spare parts are out of production.
Airborne Laser. President Obama's FY 2010 defense budget
also cancels the second Airborne Laser (ABL) prototype aircraft and
keeps the existing aircraft while shifting the focus of the program
to research and development. In the future, these technologies
could provide the U.S. with capabilities in boost-phase missile
defense, as well as area-wide anti-air warfare for the Navy, and
even function as an anti-satellite system.
In addition to its operational role, the ABL program represents
one of the primary efforts by the Pentagon to move development of
directed-energy technology forward. The ABL program supports more
than 1,000 high-tech jobs. A Defense Science Board Task Force report
from 2007 found that of the $961 million that was allocated for
high-energy laser funding in FY 2007, ABL accounted for $629
million, or 65 percent. The report also found that a "lack of
directed energy production programs or the serious prospect of
significant production programs has jeopardized the supporting
Congress must carefully consider the development investment made
to date through this program. This is essential because the
directed-energy applications of this effort reach far beyond
missile defense to include counter-mortar and counter-artillery
applications, making direct-energy technology relevant to winning
on today's battlefield.
Rotary Wing Programs. President Obama's FY 2010 defense
budget proposes terminating both the Combat Search and Rescue
helicopter (CSAR-X) and the VH-71 presidential helicopter. Both
helicopters are manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The potential
cancellation of these platforms--with the chance of a follow-on
program contingent on further review of requirements--will only
bring additional disruptions to the already troubled helicopter
industry. Rotary-wing aircraft represent the type of
counter-insurgency and irregular warfare capability shift that
President Obama seeks in his 2010 budget request. Eliminating these
two programs with nothing else in the pipeline appears preemptive
Congress should carefully consider the elimination of the U.S.
Air Force's program "to replace HH-60G helicopters that are
deficient in range, speed, carrying capacity and other features.
The Air Force is the only service that maintains a fleet of search
and rescue helicopters, which retrieve an average of 100
warfighters per year from dangerous locations." The open question
of whether the mission has been eliminated without a system to
operate is a valid one left unanswered by Pentagon officials.
Congress must demand answers quickly while figuring out how to
ensure that there is no gap in the ability of the U.S. Air Force to
conduct its search and rescue mission.
A Strong Defense Industrial Base, Now
and in the Future
The military is in a crucial phase of recapitalization. The
war-related bills will be due for years after a majority of U.S.
forces are withdrawn from Iraq, yet supplemental spending bills are
disappearing. There is no appetite for absorbing the entire
supplemental spending topline into the larger defense budget.
In the long term, continuing to underfund defense and then
allowing wild fluctuations in defense budgets during times of war
will only cost the country more and compromise security at home and
on the battlefield, including reducing the defense industrial base
to an unacceptably low level. An undercapitalized industrial base
is less competitive, which increases costs for the government and
the U.S. taxpayer.
Congress must carefully and fully evaluate President Obama's FY
2010 defense budget request, taking the long view when determining
what is needed to retain a healthy and highly skilled national
defense workforce. While the Pentagon budget is by no means a jobs
program, Congress should evaluate the costs to American taxpayers
and the cost measured in risk to the warfighter when it considers
shuttering manufacturing production lines with no follow-on
work--as proposed in this year's defense budget.
Specifically, taking a holistic approach, Congress should:
- Retain cutting-edge national security skill sets and
technologies. Regardless of the specific weapons system
purchased, maintaining a national defense industrial base capable
of continuously offering technologically superior products at
equitable cost will remain a primary challenge for policymakers.
Although Congress should refrain from decisions focused solely on
the impact they may have on American jobs, ensuring the health and
viability of America's highly skilled workforce is a central
component of retaining many of America's technological advantages
and ultimately saves lives on the battlefield.
- Reinvigorate science, technology, engineering, and math
(STEM) education. Because designing and manufacturing
cutting-edge military equipment is a generational task, the future
stability of the defense industrial base depends on the development
of tomorrow's defense manufacturing workforce. Implementing
systemic education reform--particularly in science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics--to foster innovation and increase the
number of students completing secondary and post-secondary
education who may join this professional workforce should therefore
be a top priority for Congress.
Such an effort would require encouraging and adopting new models
for strengthening teacher quality and effectiveness while also
designing a system that rewards teachers who emphasize these
subject areas. This renewed focus would also benefit from
nationwide reforms in America's school system, including charter
schools that emphasize STEM education.
- Promote additional foreign military sales. America's
defense industrial base also serves an important role in helping to
build the military capacity of foreign allies while enhancing their
interoperability with the U.S. military. These efforts indirectly
save U.S. taxpayer funds over time and include the advantage of
reducing wear and tear on U.S. equipment.
Congress should seek out and evaluate foreign military sales
opportunities for pending production line closures like the F-22,
F-18, and F-15. This could create economies of scale, bring further
stability to the industrial base workload, and reduce the per-unit
costs of individual systems. When weighing its decision on the F-22
production line and the impact of closing the line in 2011,
Congress should also consider the interest expressed in the
aircraft by Japan in particular. Along with the obvious benefits
for the industrial base, allowing the building and sale of an
allied variant of this fighter jet to a close American ally like
Japan would offer sound geostrategic benefits. Congress would
have to waive the Obey Amendment this year in order to allow this
potential F-22 variant sale to move forward.
Increasing international sales between the U.S. and its allies and
partner nations will require either limiting the restrictions
placed on the defense sector by the U.S. International Trade in
Arms Regulations (ITAR), which are both time-consuming and
confusing, or, in the case of America's closest allies, negotiating
bilateral defense trade cooperation treaties to help facilitate
easier market access with America's closest allies.
While the concern that sensitive defense technologies may fall into
the wrong hands without proper oversight is valid, the archaic ITAR
regulations remain insufficient in today's globalizing defense
market. Congress should pursue these opportunities to deregulate
the defense market as opposed to adding more layers and rules to an
already risk-averse and weighed-down process.
- Implement performance-based life-cycle management practices
at the Pentagon. In 2001, Pentagon officials began
performance-based logistics to reduce the operating costs of
systems by focusing on performance outcomes as opposed to the
acquisition of individual parts or particular repair actions.
One research study notes that:
[P]erformance outcomes can include delivery time,
work-in-progress, and most important, availability of systems and
material to the warfighter. Specific contracts to implement PBL,
termed Performance-Based Agreements, are structured to meet
warfighters' particular needs. Government oversight is still
maintained through the program office, but at reduced cost.
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology
and Logistics John Young issued guidance in July 2008 to reduce
acquisition costs within the Department of Defense by establishing
life-cycle metrics early in the process and monitoring them
throughout the development and deployment of weapons systems and
The new Administration should continue to support the two-year
pilot program that is underway to "determine the feasibility of
annually assessing the attainment of the life cycle metrics...as
part of the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution System
activities." The benefits of using performance-based
agreements include the increased "availability of equipment and
systems to our military in combat...[which] translates into
increased combat power. Performance-based agreements also appear to
be saving the government money. A study of 23 performance-based
agreements showed an average annual savings of $21 million."
America's defense industrial base plays a fundamental role in
providing the U.S. military with the equipment and platforms
necessary to achieve its objectives with the highest efficiency.
While the industrial base has gone through many fluctuations over
the past 60 years, this national workforce has continued to produce
the most technologically advanced systems available, thereby
helping to ensure America's military superiority.
Imminent funding decisions about whether to continue production
of several major aerospace, shipbuilding, munitions,
directed-energy, and helicopter lines present Congress with a
dilemma that it must consider carefully before proceeding further.
Although there will be pressure to focus on the number of jobs that
stand to be lost during difficulteconomic times if certain
decisions are made, what is needed is a more holistic examination
that accounts for the entirety of the U.S. defense industrial base
and its long-term ability to continue to develop and produce the
capabilities required to defend the United States and its
interests. This must begin with an assessment that properly weighs
the benefits of keeping various production lines open against the
strategic and actual costs of closing them.
Congress must also think and plan for the long term by
addressing the deterioration of national STEM education skills and
streamlining the foreign acquisition and sales process to help reap
the concurrent benefits of free and accessible defense markets. A
healthy defense industrial base is important both because it helps
to protect the country and its men and women in uniform and because
it saves taxpayer dollars through competition.
M. Eaglen is Senior Policy Analyst for National Security and
Eric Sayers is a Research Assistant in the Douglas and Sarah
Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.