DoD’s Lynn Takes Page from History Books in Effort to Protect Defense Industrial Base

DoD photo by Terry Mitchell

Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn is leading a Defense Department effort to create a roadmap ensuring the defense industrial base remains robust even as defense spending is set for a slow-down.

In a keynote speech at the Royal Bank of Canada Defense and Aerospace Conference at New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Lynn said the roadmap guidance is being put together with Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ashton Carter and Brett Lambert, deputy assistant secretary for industrial policy.

Lynn called efforts to maintain national security while drawing down Pentagon spending a “high-wire act,” and it’s no less meticulous a task to maintain the vitality of the defense industrial base, the bedrock foundation of government contracting.

“For [the Defense Department], how to slow defense spending responsibly while retaining the most effective fighting force in the world is the central task,” Lynn said, according to an American Forces Press Service report. “For industry, how to adjust to a less-robust defense market while maintaining technological prowess is their central task.”

History clearly weighed heavily on Lynn’s mind.

Along with talk of previous inflection points in defense spending, Lynn went even further back — to the birth of the defense industry, itself.

“Before World War II, we relied almost entirely on an arsenal system, in which the government designed and produced munitions and weapon systems,” he said. “That arsenal system was a corollary to our reliance on mass mobilization.” But the system of massive increases in spending and troops proved unreliable, he added.

World War II was a paradigm shift — where a full-fledged partnership with industry flowered.

“Our defense industrial base has emerged in the past three generations as a national strategic asset — an asset that is not a birthright and cannot be taken for granted,” Lynn said. “Thousands of firms — some big, others small — equip our military. These firms, their suppliers, and their suppliers’ suppliers, are the links in a chain that, if broken, can have outsize impact on our military capabilities.”

The creation of the industry roadmap is a painstaking effort, Lynn said.

“We’re going sector by sector, tier by tier, and our goal is to develop a long-term policy to protect that base as we slow defense spending,” he said, with a focus on increasing and nurturing competition, taking an increasingly global view of the defense market and targeted spending for research and development.

The benefits, Lynn suggested, are as plain to read as any passage in a history book.

“It will help us ensure that the taxpayers’ investment in this industrial base that we’ve built since World War II is protected,” he said.

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