Ensuring America’s Defense-Industrial Base for National Security

The president and CEO of BAE Systems, Inc., Linda P. Hudson, spoke at the Atlantic Council on November 19th as part of the Atlantic Council Captains of Industry Series. Her address, entitled “Ensuring America’s Defense Industrial Base Can Support Our Future National Security Needs,” made the case about the need to preserve and cultivate world-class industrial capabilities against a backdrop of uncertainty about the purposes, programs, and fiscal policies on which the defense industry could orient.

The marketplace of defense is a vital thread in the overall fabric of US national security and the security of its allies in the Atlantic Alliance and partners around the globe. Shaping that marketplace to serve national security is a key and legitimate objective of industrial base strategy. However, as Linda Hudson warned, “before there can ever be a meaningful industrial base strategy, there must first be an agreed upon national defense strategy, resourced by a congressional budget, planned and executed by DOD and other national security agencies and departments, and supported by healthy industry partners.” Failing those prerequisites of a healthy defense-industrial base, the technical and military superiority that has been one hallmark of US national security is at risk, said Ms. Hudson.

In particular, she worries that the defense industry is losing the global competition for the best talent. “In this fiercely competitive, resource-constrained business environment, it’s going to be the companies, industries and economies that can attract and retain the best and brightest, most skilled, experienced, and creative workforce who not only survive, but thrive,” she said. An immigration system that creates a pathway to citizenship for the many talented immigrants who attend college and graduate school in the United States needs to be one part of the solution to the human capital deficit afflicting the defense industry.