Reinvigorating the National Defense Industrial Base

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Reinvigorating the National Defense Industrial Base

As in the 20th century, the best way to ensure that a Cold War does not become a “hot one” is by one side maintaining an overwhelming lead in terms of both the quality and quantity of weaponry.  Hitler invaded the USSR in 1941 because he realized that Germany enjoyed only a brief window of time before Soviet war production exceeded its own.  That same year, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor realizing that delaying would permit the United States to dramatically upgrade its Pacific fleet and give it a permanent advantage in terms of offensive capability. 

Today, the Chinese and Russians don’t hold an edge vis a vis the United States and its allies on any meaningful metric.  From missiles to aircraft to warships to satellites to natural resources and logistical support, China, Russia and Iran can’t compete with the United States, Japan, and the UK. 

As a result, military adventurism in Europe or Asia is preempted as long as America’s alliance makes sure the economic and military price to be paid for such aggression is prohibitive.   And that’s only possible we can ensure that Russia and China never approach parity with the U.S.

Based on the 20th Century Cold War, the current status quo portends a long war of economic attrition. This clearly favors the alliance with a larger and stronger network. And the biggest risks will likely arise from the kinds of “proxy wars” that trapped the United States in Vietnam and the USSR in Afghanistan.

Maintaining, the edge needed to win this war requires a highly competitive defense industry ready to respond to changing needs. 

Since military procurement peaked during the Iraq war, America’s defense needs have changed dramatically.  Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. forces concentrated on asymmetric warfare against dispersed non-state actors and their relatively unsophisticated state sponsors.  To the extent that other superpowers were involved, it was in the roles of clandestine arms merchant or technical advisor.

During the Obama years, Congress and the DOD recognized that the United States needed to stay on the cutting edge of military technology, but they were unwilling to commit to major procurement programs when the nature of future threats was so uncertain.  As a result, procurement shrank, but R&D remained strong...

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