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Program Management

National Defense Industrial Strategy -- International Aspects

National Defense Industrial Strategy -- International Aspects

Joint Strike Fighter on Production Line
Frank Kenlon (Prof of Int'l Acq, DAU/DSMC-Int'l)

The Department of Defense (DoD) published a National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS) in November 2023 and conducted a Pentagon press conference on January 11, 2024 to announced its public release.  As DoD’s first-ever NDIS, it is intended to “guide the Department's engagement, policy development, and investment in the industrial base over the next three to five years.” 


Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks emphasizes in the document's Foreword that the NDIS provides DoD’s strategic vision regarding current and future efforts to create a “modern defense industrial ecosystem” aligned with DoD’s National Defense Strategy (NDS) to shape and influence cooperation within and among:

  • U.S. government organizations
  • Industry and other private sector entities
  • Allied and friendly nations

The NDIS’s goal is to make the “industrial ecosystem” of the U.S -- and its allies and friends around the globe -- “dynamic, responsive, state-of-the-art, resilient, and a deterrent to our adversaries” by focusing on four critical areas:

  • Resilient Supply Chains
  • Workforce Readiness
  • Flexible Acquisition
  • Economic Deterrence

International Aspects

The NDIS uses the word “international” 45 times in the 52 pages that constitute the body of the document. As a longstanding DoD internationalist, I am pleased with the amount of emphasis in this area throughout the document.  Here’s a brief summary of the international acquisition and exportability content in each NDIS section:


  • Mentions lessons learned from recent decades regarding the “enduring advantage of the global international economic order, which has proven to be a major strength for the U.S. and our allies.”
  • Highlights recent challenges with global supply chains that need attention.
  • Emphasizes the importance of improved visibility in the area of allied and partner nation requirement to enhance collective Defense Industrial Base (DIB) planning and investment.
  • Cites the importance of addressing AUKUS Pillar I and Pillar II DIB challenges with our closest allies.

Achieving Resilient Supply Chains

  • Highlights importance of engaging allies and friendly nations to expand global defense production and increase supply chain resilience.
  • Focuses on measures needed to strength international defense production relationships.
  • Recommends use of multiple international collaboration mechanisms to expand collective industrial capabilities.
  • Encourages continued emphasis on improving the U.S. the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process to enhance commercial sustainability.
  • Mentions multilateral collaboration lessons from Ukraine response.

Achieving Workforce Readiness

  • Notes importance of engaging our international partners to share workforce training and management lessons learned and identify opportunities for enhanced partnerships.

Achieving Flexible Acquisition

  • Emphasizes awareness and use of international standards, modularity, and interoperability as crucial elements that enable mutual support and collaboration within the global defense industrial ecosystem.
  • Recommends that seek commercial solutions and technologies from international allies and partners as well as domestics sources.
  • Encourages pursuit of acquisition strategies which streamline the process and communicate a sustained and transparent “demand signals” to both domestic and international suppliers.

Achieving Economic Deterrence

  • Promotes participation in standards setting-bodies, encouraging development and establishment of international standards that facilitate interoperability.
  • Calls for widespread us of current and future interoperability standards both domestically --- and with allied and friendly nation partners – when planning and implementing national defense contracts and International Cooperative Program (ICP), FMS, and “Hybrid” FMS/Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) international acquisition transactions.
  • Highlights the need to expand and enhance economic security arrangements with NATO, AUKUS, and the Five Eyes (FVEY) National Technical Industrial Base (NTIB) nations to focus on sourcing from countries that are geopolitical allies to reduce reliance on potentially adversarial or unstable nations for critical defense and strategic materials.


The NDIS contains many logical and sensible recommendations that could eventually lead to markedly enhanced industrial and technological base performance among the U.S. and its allies and friends.  That said, there have always been many acknowledged and implicit challenges in this area among allied and friendly nations due to:

  • Excessive focus on defense sales to each other, rather than establishment of international cooperative acquisition program partnerships among allies.
  • Protectionist measures (both legislative and policy-based) that interfere with competitive sourcing from best value providers in allied and friendly nations.
  • Overly cautious and rigid technology transfer and foreign disclosure policies and practices that hinder both the establishment of new government-to-government programs and the corresponding export control approvals that U.S. and allied industry must obtain to participate in them.
  • Cultural biases with the U.S. and allied national security and defense establishments that implicitly favor ‘domestic-only’ programs which lack both exportability and interoperability features in their designs, leading to major problems in future years that must be solved at great expense with associated delays and coalition operational performance issues.

Sadly, these “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” have caused the failure of previous attempts among the U.S and key allies to achieve the substantial progress envisioned by the NDIS and recent NTIB legislative and policy measures. 

Hopefully this time around sufficient effort and persistence will be brought to bear on these “Four Horsemen” by key players within the AUKUS and NTIB nations to overcome them so that the NDIS’s vision of a modern global defense industrial ecosystem can truly be achieved.

Until next time,

Prof K

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