Defense Industrialist

  • An EU Air Force Is Impossible; Fortunately, It’s Not Necessary.

    To rebuild robust air forces, Europeans should just get back to basics.

    Early last month, as David Cenciotti of The Aviationist reported, A-10Cs of the Maryland Air National Guard were again practicing landings and take-offs from stretches of highway in Estonia, though with occasional casualties amongst the roadsigns. About a year prior, it was A-10Cs of the Regulars, out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, doing the same thing on a different stretch of Estonian road. Notably absent from either exercise was the Luftwaffe, the Armée de l’Air, the Aeronautica Militare, and every other European air arm. Yes, they are rotating squadrons through the local air policing mission, but why are they sending no more? Again, those-in-the-know in Europe have been asserting that greater military...

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  • An EU Navy Is Impossible; Fortunately, It’s Not Necessary.

    To rebuild robust naval forces, Europeans should think less like Americans, and more like Russians.

    As I noted yesterday, Brexit has opened all sorts of talk about the future of British and European military activities. To continue the argument today, let’s tack towards naval matters. In “All the Queen's Ships” (Proceedings of the US Naval Institute, January 2017), James C. Bennett of the Economic Policy Centre in London recommended formation of a Union Navy, loosely composed of the Royal, Royal Canadian, Royal Australian, and Royal New Zealand Navies, under their single sovereign. As one might expect in his argument, “the four main Westminster democracies” could afford greater military capabilities together than separately. To an American, this might seem another...

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  • An EU Army Is Impossible; Fortunately, It’s Not Necessary.

    To rebuild robust land forces, Europeans should think a little like Americans, a little like Russians, and otherwise for themselves.

    Shortly after the Brexit vote last June, those-in-the-know in Europe started calling for a renewed effort at a common European military force. A year ago this month, General Vincenzo Camporini, former head of the Italian general staff, told Defense News that all was now possible, as the obstructionist British were finally leaving. The imperative, as Defense News reported last September, has been variously described as ranging “from budgets and migration to a resurgent Russia or independence from NATO.” As Bloomberg reported that month, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka was...

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  • Can Defense Industrialists Work with Trump?

    Whatever opprobrium the president is owed, his administration's more important initiatives deserve attention.

    Donald Trump’s twin business advisory panels have collapsed. Members of both the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum had been resigning quickly, and according to today's Wall Street Journal—“CEOs Scrap Trump Panels”—they voted yesterday just to disband. At first, the president asserted that he could replace all the “grandstanders” with compliant substitutes; he later claimed on Twitter that the disbanding was his idea, to save them all from public pressure. In “...

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  • How to Be Like Ike

    Project Solarium as a model for assessing defense-industrial policy

    It is hard not to read a pretext for protectionism into the Executive Order President Trump signed last month under the ponderous title, “Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States”. And yet, the Administration also has gone out of its way to wrap the initiative in the mantle of ambitions far more weighty and strategic, and that’s the thing that caught my eye about the announcement. What if we really could have a serious deliberation about defense-industrial strategy?

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  • Maybe Not So Rare After All

    As the long term prognosis for the rare-earths business shows, the administration should move carefully in “strengthening supply chain resiliency.”

    On 21 July, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on “assessing and strengthening the manufacturing and defense industrial base and supply chain resiliency of the United States.” Within 270 days, the departments of defense, commerce, labor, energy, and homeland security, in consultation with a host of other agencies, are to create an exhaustive study of the materiel needed by the military, the manufacturing capabilities needed to produce them, and the threats that others might pose to security of supply. Last Tuesday, Colin Clark of Breaking Defense...

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  • “The Whole Network Needs to Mesh in Wartime”

    Avoiding despair about military radio communications is the first step towards robust solutions.

    The US Army may be taking a knee in its pursuit of modernizing its battlefield radio communications. After fifteen years of pursuing its Warfighter Information Network Tactical (WIN-T) program, the service seems to be reconsidering the specifics of its path towards robust, on-the-move networking. Recent observations of Russian battlefield successes with electronic warfare have been disquieting, leading the Army and the Congress to question whether what’s being bought really is what’s necessary for success, or even survival. Whatever the art of the possible, tactical communications are an end-to-end problem that must be addressed as such. Some mix of innovation in electronics and operating concepts will be necessary, but US forces ought to be confident that they are better positioned to adapt than their adversaries. In short, no one...

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  • You Can’t Call the Cavalry on Two Percent

    Ein kleines Gedankenexperiment on the consequences of spending targets

    Back in September 2014, I wrote in this column about whether percentages of gross domestic product (GDP) were a useful metric for military contributions across alliances. Back then, only five of NATO’s 28 member states were on track to meet its two percent target in 2015: the United States, Greece, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Estonia. Much of the alliance was treating two percent not as a floor, but an aspiration, or even a bad joke. Since then, some European countries have sharply increased their spending, but to points still far below the not-actually-mandated minimum. Of late, we have even seen a slew of essays about how thoroughly unrealistic that demand really is, including one at War On The Rocks...

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  • No, Senator, it's not 90 percent.

    John McCain grossly exaggerates the power of defense contractors, and unfairly criticizes Patrick Shanahan.

    As Sydney Freedberg covered for Breaking Defense yesterday, Senator John McCain of Arizona was rather tough on the administration’s nominee to be deputy defense secretary. C-SPAN has the video, at roughly the 3:02:00 mark:

        I want to move forward as quickly as I can with your nomination, [but] I am concerned. Ninety percent of defense spending is in the hands of five corporations, of which you represent one. I have to have confidence that the fox is not going to be put back into the henhouse.

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  • Is Imported Aluminum a Threat to American National Security?

    As with steel, it isn’t now, and it won’t be in the future.

    National security, the late economist Merton Miller once reminded me, gets invoked to justify all sorts of tomfoolery. Last month, I wrote about the Trump Administration’s Section 232 investigations into steel imports, concluding that they were simply not a threat to national security. Indeed, as the editors of the Wall Street Journal wrote last week, “the case against steel tariffs is so overwhelming that it’s hard to believe even [Commerce Secretary] Ross can find a way to justify it.” The Trump Administration is also considering imposing duties on aluminum imports, and has opened another investigation under Section 232...

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