Defense Manufacturing: What ARE the Issues?

Writing in the National Defense Industrial Association’s President’s Perspective, Lawrence P. Farrell Jr wrote that, “Defense manufacturing is like the weather.  Everyone talks about it, but no one does anything.” This was two years ago, yet many of Farrell’s concerns about defense manufacturing issues coupled with manufacturing concerns at large – still stand true today. The issues that affect overall manufacturing in the U.S. also impact the defense industrial base – to the point that manufacturing concerns have become national security issues. In fact, Farrell quotes a Defense Science Board Report titled, “Creating a National Security Industrial Base for the 21st Century: An Action Plan to Address the Coming Crisis,” that concluded that “Defense Department policies actually impede the transition to an affordable military force for the 21st century….Current policies don’t facilitate development or deployment of affordable, innovative systems. Government acquisition policies, the study said, will not produce the required competitive, responsive, efficient and innovative industrial base.” In response to this report, the NDIA Manufacturing Division, outlined six issues that demand attention: 1. Need to recognize that U.S. firms now have incentives to manufacture domestically and keep jobs at home. 2. Foreign versus domestic environmental policies. An NDIA White Paper, “Maintaining a Viable Defense Industrial Base,” discusses the hazards of global manufacturing standards. 3. Need for steady, long-term access to affordable raw materials. At this time, “China produces 97.3 percent of the world’s supply of rare earth minerals; Russia produces 1.6 percent, while the United States produces only 1.1 percent.” 4. Shortage of skilled labor. The U.S. education system has not produced the technically skilled work force that is demanded by an advanced, world-class manufacturing industry. 5. Administration leaders lack business experience in the area of meeting payroll, making investments in advanced technology and manufacturing, and competition. 6. In the defense sector, if the government doesn’t fund a particular system, industry will stop the effort. Work force and resources will move on to other funded programs. Manufacturing makes up “12 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product and 10 percent of employment.”  Farrell emphasizes that national manufacturing strategy is needed. Read the full article here: Defense Manufacturing: A Crisis in the Making Related Article: Top Five Ways the Government is Utilizing Autodesk Software