Part of a continuing series of articles from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment.
On Feb. 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine and the Department of Defense (DoD) released its report “Securing Defense-Critical Supply Chains
.” Over the past year, this coincidence seemed prescient as the DoD and its allies transferred a significant amount of military materiel to Ukraine and created great demands for replenishment. These demands have strained the resources of the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) and highlighted areas where there are shortfalls.
The conflict in Ukraine is the first major ground war in Europe since World War II and differs substantially from the counterinsurgency-focused conflicts of the last two decades. The extended duration and significant changes in the character of this conflict have resulted in the expenditure of large quantities of munitions. As a result, the DoD and many allied countries are acutely focused on ensuring that the DIB can replenish the materiel provided and ensuring the continuation of a robust capacity to support future requirements.
In the “Securing Defense-Critical Supply Chains” report, the DoD identified five key sectors (Kinetic Capabilities, Microelectronics, Casting and Forging, Battery and Energy Storage, and Critical and Strategic Materials) and four strategic enablers (Small Business, Cyber Posture, Manufacturing, and Workforce) that are vital to providing needed capabilities to the Warfighter. The DoD is coordinating efforts and applying available resources through this framework to address those concerns and issues of economic competition particularly as it concerns adversarial capital and strategic investment.
The depletion of U.S. munitions stockpiles has garnered a great deal of attention. The DoD established the Munitions Industrial Base Deep Dive (MIDD) to assess, understand, and address challenges associated with ramping up production to backfill items transferred to Ukraine. This holistic review will address not only short-term constraints but also identify challenges as part of the initial design of future weapon systems and acquisition strategies.
As the technological sophistication of military equipment increases, the assured access to secure and dependable microelectronics will become ever more important. Only about 12 percent of world semiconductors are produced in the United States, leaving the DIB vulnerable to supply chain constraints and disruptions. The CHIPS and Sciences Act
is a key component in the restoration of domestic microelectronics manufacturing capacity. Working with interagency partners, the DoD seeks to improve access to state-of-the-art microelectronics technologies and sustainment of state-of-the-practice technologies in DoD systems. These coordinated efforts will prove far more successful than attempting to independently mitigate industrial base gaps.
The CHIPS and Sciences Act also provides an opportunity for DoD to engage collaboratively with industry partners on assured access to microelectronics technologies The objective is to develop an assurance framework that provides DoD with a high degree of confidence concerning the origin of its electronics components without burdening or constraining industry.
A well-trained and stable workforce is a necessity in order for the DIB to deliver the required capabilities. The recently established innovation workforce initiative is coordinating DoD’s efforts to attract and retain the workforce needed now and in the future. This concern involves both DoD’s own employees and those of the industrial base. The DoD established the National Imperative for Industrial Skills
to recruit and train a nontraditional and more diverse workforce by partnering with local community colleges to assess and invest in filling critical skill gaps, and to build regional networks among employers, job seekers, and training initiatives.
Another primary pillar is our focus on small businesses, where the DoD’s engagement provides ample opportunity for collaboration in a global market driven by fierce economic competition. Though vibrant engines of U.S. economic growth, small businesses are vulnerable to competition from larger international corporations and changes in the global supply chain. It is not a small problem for DoD when small businesses leave the market. Seventy-three percent of DIB suppliers are small businesses, and many provide critical capabilities not easily replaced from other sources.
Despite their importance, small businesses face various obstacles in helping DoD meet its challenges. Government regulations and business practices can be difficult to understand and can create barriers or increase the cost of doing business with DoD. Some of these barriers include confusing points of entry into defense markets, bundling and consolidating of contracts, and complex acquisition regulations. Larger, better-resourced companies are better able to navigate these obstacles and address these costs.
To address challenges faced by small business and increase their participation in defense acquisition, the DoD will soon release its 2022 Small Business Strategy, which includes three objectives:
- Improve management practices by sharing best practices and creating efficiencies across the enterprise for small-business activities and programs. This includes implementing a unified structure and workforce and streamlining small-business entry points into the DoD market.
- Ensure that the DoD’s small-business activities better support national security priorities. This includes stabilizing and scaling existing programs that help small businesses deliver capabilities to the Warfighter and using better data tools to understand small business participation and spending.
- Strengthen the DoD’s ability to engage and support small businesses. This includes improved communication and outreach as well as expanded training and resources for small businesses.
Implementing this strategy will make the DIB more innovative, resilient, and effective, producing a Joint Force that is better equipped to execute its mission.
As demonstrated by our response to the Russian invasion in Ukraine, the DIB and its supply chains are global. An effective response cannot depend solely on American action. The DoD is working with our international partners and allies to identify opportunities for collaboration.
The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy have played a leading role in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. They facilitated a special meeting of the NATO National Armaments Directors to address industrial base issues such as production support for a wide variety of munitions, weapon systems, and components. The Acquisition and Sustainment office also leads the DoD in addressing economic competition and its effect on production of military capabilities.
Prior to the Russian invasion, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States formalized cooperation on a number of initiatives under the agreement commonly referred to as AUKUS. This agreement includes cooperative development of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia and a number of other advanced capabilities. Inherent in these developments are reinforcement and interoperability of the industrial bases of participating countries.
The DoD also is working through existing multilateral bodies like the National Technology and Industrial Base (NTIB) and bilateral agreements to address industrial base challenges. For example, on Oct. 24, 2022, the United States signed a brand-new Security of Supply Arrangement (SOSA) with Denmark, bringing to 10 the total SOSAs signed since 2018. These agreements allow the DoD to request priority delivery for DoD contracts, subcontracts, or orders from companies in these countries. The DoD is working with several other countries to complete agreements to further strengthen U.S. and partner-nation supply chains.
Continued development of a robust DIB, including efforts with allies and partners, is a foundational requirement for both short- and long-term operational success. Through the development of new capabilities and sustainment of existing capabilities, the DIB and the DoD demonstrate the ability to succeed on the battlefield and increase the deterrent effect of our military forces.
is the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs. In this capacity, she is the principal advisor to the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment on nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, and biological and chemical programs. She also is currently performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy. Prior to her position as Assistant Secretary of Defense, she was the Executive Vice President at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). Rosenblum holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College.
To contact the author, visit: https://www.businessdefense.gov/contact-us.html
Top Photo: The USS Cole, center, participates in a replenishment with the USNS Supply and the USS Harry S. Truman in the Mediterranean Sea, May 17, 2022. Photo by Navy Seaman Charles Blaine. (This image was cropped to emphasize the subject.)
Source: DoD Photos