Defense Industrialist

Unless troops live off the land again, energy efficiency can only yield so much.

Colonel Greg Douquet's views on the future of battlefield energy sound neat, and one can see how these might be able to mitigate the fuel needs of electrical generators. Perhaps it’s harder to imagine what “low signature” wind and solar generating systems are. Ultimately, the idea can just sound like more kit to haul around to power some radios and laptops, but ultimately, not save all that much fuel.

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Unless troops live off the land again, energy efficiency can only yield so much.

Colonel Greg Douquet's views on the future of battlefield energy sound neat, and one can see how these might be able to mitigate the fuel needs of electrical generators. Perhaps it’s harder to imagine what “low signature” wind and solar generating systems are. Ultimately, the idea can just sound like more kit to haul around to power some radios and laptops, but ultimately, not save all that much fuel.

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Innovation in energy can be a force multiplier on the battlefield.

In March 2003, the commander of the US Army’s Fifth Corps, General William Wallace, was again reminded of the timeless axiom that amateurs talk tactics, but professionals study logistics. His massive and powerful formation, the main effort against the Iraqi Republican Guard, was “operationally paused.” The general feared that his thinly protected lines of communication were compromised by deliberate targeting from Sadam Fedayeen, and that his troops would lose access to vital supplies coming from the Port of Kuwait. As the world watched, media and political leaders were starting to term the situation a “quagmire.”

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Nine recommendations to the Trump Administration on the People of Defense

I once wrote that the business of defense under President Donald J. Trump could start with “General, you’re fired.” The president-elect has noted that the US military has been attaining less-than-satisfying results in its campaigns since the end of the Cold War, and he expects that to change. The US has been massively outspending its enemies, but not getting stellar results. In large part, the spending is because Americans make very expensive warriors, so the military must ensure that its high-class labor is very well utilized. Its people are already highly educated and motivated. For decades, though, they have been constrained by almost bizarrely unhelpful personnel policies and practices. So what to do? As a business-minded force for change, the incoming administration can take nine steps:

  1. Continue to eliminate burdensome, value-detracting tasks.
  2. Maintain those institutions that guide service culture.
  3. Pave alternative paths for promotion.
  4. End the micro-magagement and the witch-hunts.
  5. Reduce the numbers of the most senior ranks.
  6. Hire term-limited, limited-duty experts.
  7. Sunset and otherwise discourage 20-year retirements.
  8. Repeal the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act.
  9. Put some real human capital gurus in charge.

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China's stealing an American ocean glider won’t stop the world from making a whole lot more.

In what Ankur Panda in The Diplomat termed an “exceptionally brazen and illegal move by Beijing,” the Chinese Navy this past week stole an American ocean glider. On Friday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced that the Defense Department had contacted the Chinese government to demand the glider back. After some nonsensical whining about American reconnaissance around its ships, the Chinese government agreed to return the little guy. After all, seizing another Navy’s boat on the high seas can be construed as an act of war. At the same time, seizing this one—indeed, almost any single one like it—provides no useful intelligence. While this particular stunt may not be soon repeated, incidents involving autonomous craft at sea may increase considerably, as robotic boats and subs proliferate quickly.

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On surviving those UCAs, finding that $125 billion, and becoming the monopsonist’s apprentice.

The mood at the Aerospace Industries Association luncheon this week, Tony Bertuca reported for Inside Defense, was grim. As AIA CEO Dave Melcher put it, it’s a “relatively new phenomenon” for the president-elect to call out the country’s largest aerospace company on a big program like the new Air Force One, pledging to cancel it. Apart from Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s contempt for the F-35, there’s really no precedent for it at all. Much of industry is thus scrambling to understand what will come next. I advise that to grasp the implications of Donald Trump’s sudden intervention in military procurement, and his motivations for the fateful tweet, think back to this summer’s negotiations over the Lot 9 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) contract, and to this week’s reissuance of the “$125 billion” story. Consider how differently this administration may want to think about costs and defense, and how to get there.

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A Better Business Model for Transnational Armaments Cooperation

The Royal United Services Institution has just published in RUSI Journal (vol. 161, no. 5, October–November 2016) the latest long essay of the Defense Industrialist project of the Atlantic Council. The abstract encapsulates our argument:

    The traditional business model of transnational cooperation in armaments development and production is not working. Although the model is designed for economies of scale through long production runs, the political allocation of work share hampers supply-chain management. This leads to worse results than would have been attained in purely national projects. In its place, Steven Grundman and James Hasik propose a new model with fewer customers, a focus on innovation and an emphasis on developing multiple purchasing options with more competitively determined multinational content.

In place of future grand multinational projects, like today's A400M and the F-35 programs, we recommend more attention to bilateral arrangements with fewer corporate partners. As we note in conclusion, in that way industrialists and their customers can

    get “closer to the businesses,” speeding communication and improving day-to-day governance. The fluidity of an alliance structure, without a twenieth-century obsession with scale, will produce a more flexible and less costly twenty-first century approach which can provide the solution to modern security problems.

Courtesy of publishers Taylor & Francis, a limited number of reprints are available directly from the authors.

Steven Grundman is the Lund Fellow and James Hasik is a senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

The DND must ensure that the RCAF's replacement for the CF-18s can defend North America against emerging threats.

The Liberal Government of Canada has announced that it intends to swiftly sole-source 18 F/A-18E Super Hornets to fill a perceived capability gap. The need flows from Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan’s views of existing treaty obligations under NORAD and NATO. The Royal Canadian Air Force, however, has stated that its 77 existing CF-18s will last at least to 2025, even if the loss rate for the type has increased of late. Whoever is correct, and however the government proceeds in replacing the fighter fleet, missile threats to North America are rising. The incoming Trump administration in Washington will bring heightened expectations for what NORAD and NATO really mean. Thus, the Department of National Defence must find new planes that are at least upgradeable for directly addressing these emerging threats.

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Technological developments and actual financial constraints demand top-to-bottom rethinking of the business of defense.

As I wrote earlier this month, Donald Trump’s unpredicted electoral victory has brought the possibility for real change in the enterprise of national security. To borrow Paul Ryan’s phrase, thoroughly rethinking the business of defense could create a military that moves closer to the speed of broadband than the speed of bureaucracy. But if the Trump Administration will be rebuilding the military, it’s worth asking what it’s rebuilding it for. I argue that in the early 21st century, the means of warfare will be increasingly precise, autonomous, scalable, ubiquitous, and democratized. As the monies for responding to emerging threats are actually not limitless, the incoming administration will need to think through the implications of all five of these hallmarks, and consider how to get ahead of the problems. I further argue that the Trump Administration thus needs a little less Reagan, a little more Rumsfeld, and a strategy of payloads and productivity.

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Advice to the Trump Administration on bringing discipline to the defense enterprise

At the conclusion of an unconventional but brilliant campaign, Donald Trump has effected, in terms he might appreciate, a hostile takeover of the executive branch of the United States federal government. In that campaign, he repeatedly promised to move swiftly towards administrative change, perhaps in a hundred-day campaign. There is reason to move out smartly. As Paul Ryan wrote in A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America, enemies and adversaries are “moving at the speed of broadband, so we cannot move at the speed of bureaucracy.” Rather, as the Speaker said the day after the election, with majorities in both legislative houses, “the opportunity is to go big, go bold and to get things done.” For his part, Trump has promised to prioritize private-sector experience and thinking in installing leaders and formulating policies for all federal agencies. So, for Defense, what now?

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