Report: Industry may be unable to meet military's needs

Group urges Pentagon to consider the impact of security strategies and budgeting and acquisition decisions on the defense industrial base.

The Aerospace Industries Association issued a report Monday warning that because of consolidation and other fundamental changes in the defense industry, manufacturers may not be able to provide the technologies required to carry out the strategies the Defense Department considers necessary to meet future threats.

"Without considering industrial effects when choosing strategies, DoD might choose strategies that industry is no longer facilitized to support, or those strategic decisions could break industrial capabilities that may be required in the future," Fred Downey, AIA's vice president for national security policy, said at a news conference.

That could reduce strategic options "or leave the U.S. vulnerable to threats," Downey said.

To avoid that emerging danger, AIA urged that the impact on the defense industrial base be considered during development of national security and defense strategies such as the current Quadrennial Defense Review and in defense budgeting and acquisition decisions.

In a briefing on the report, Fred Downey and J.J. Gertler -- former Hill staffers who have been involved in past QDRs -- said defense industrial base issues were never discussed in the four previous reviews, an indication the industry has reasons to be concerned.

In addition, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates unveiled his major program cuts in April, he said explicitly that defense industry jobs were not a factor in any of his decisions.

In its report, AIA recommended reinvigorated congressional oversight and review of defense industrial base issues, and restoration of the regular meetings of the Defense secretary and industry executives. They were canceled by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

AIA President Marion Blakey noted that the United States has long depended for its military superiority on technological dominance, which was achieved by a strong Pentagon-defense industry partnership.

"We are concerned that that partnership is weakening" and that military leaders are assuming an industrial capability to meet new requirements, which may not exist, she said.

In preparing the report, titled "The Unseen Cost: Industrial Base Consequences of Defense Strategy Choices," AIA studied the abilities of 10 aerospace industry sectors to respond to three possible future strategic scenarios. Those were a continuation of the current strategy, an increased focus on irregular warfare and a "power projection" situation, in which most military forces were U.S. based and had to be deployed quickly to meet a threat.

The study found that three key sectors were "significantly affected" by the strategic choices: tactical aviation, consisting of fighters and attack aircraft; large military aircraft, such as refueling tankers and cargo planes, and ballistic missile defense.

The two aircraft sectors could be weakened by lack of production under one situation and unable to respond to changing needs. A reduced missile defense-design workforce might be unable to respond to a demand for different systems required by a changed strategy.

Minimally affected by the different strategies were unmanned aerial systems; command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems; and strategic nuclear capabilities. Those three were required for all three scenarios.

Four sectors were assessed as "minimally affected" by the strategic choices because they already were in such a degraded condition that they would have difficulty responding to any of the scenarios.

Those were rotary-wing aviation and long-range strike, or bombers, because their research and development capabilities have eroded for lack of new programs; space power, where the industrial base is too weak to respond quickly to new demands, and science and technology, a sector that is depleted due to lack of funding and an aging work force.