Elana Broitman was the Voice for Industry. Find her Replacement Expeditiously.
Here at the Defense Industrialist, the US government official whose duties concern us most is perhaps the deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing and industrial base policy—the DASD MIBP. From 2009 through 2013, the job was held by Brett Lambert, who is now doing great work at the National Defense Industries Association (NDIA). Lambert’s position was filled last summer by Elana Broitman, who had served in an acting capacity before finally getting the formal nod in March. But late last week, and so soon after her successful trip to the Farnborough Air Show, Broitman announced that she would leave the job at the end of August. She’ll be joining her husband in New York City, as his job has recently taken him north.
Marcus Weisgerber of Defense News covered the story with some well-placed salutes. Arnold Punaro, Lambert’s boss as chairman of the NDIA, said that “in a very short period of time, [Brotiman has] come up to speed very quickly, and done a terrific job.” Betsy Schmid of the Aerospace Industries Association extolled “her competence, depth of knowledge of the defense industrial base, and willingness to listen to and work with the defense industry.” Broitman’s service has thus provided important continuity from her predecessor’s tenure; Weisgerber wrote that Lambert had been “revered in defense circles [after] twenty years of experience working for defense and intelligence firms.”
But in its brief mention of Broitman’s departure, Defense Industry Daily dryly observed that “her replacement is not yet known.” This should cause some concern, for success with strategic supply is hardly guaranteed at the Pentagon. After all, then-Under Secretary Ashton Carter launched the Better Buying Power initiative some years back in frustration that a monopsonistic customer couldn’t attain better value in its procurement programs. A salient problem, as my colleague Steve Grundman wrote some years ago, is that the monopsonist faces a dilemma—”how to incentivize lower prices in the short-term, without ruining suppliers’ incentives to commit assets, incur risk, and innovate for the long-run.”
Over the past few years, and with accelerating frequency, I have been hearing complaints from industry that the acquisition bureaucracy’s preferences have been swinging towards that short run, and in ways unsuitable for the long-term maintenance of America’s innovative edge in military materiel. As the Defense Business Board noted in a report released last Thursday, many businesses in the US sense that the Pentagon’s minions are “against profit, against industry, and against commercial procurement.” And unfortunately, over the past few decades, the work of the industrial policy office—the group whose commission is to take the long view—has not received enough attention from the top management in the building.
Fortunately, Lambert, Broitman, and their allies in Congress have raised the status of the office, providing a counterbalance to the apparently short-term impulses of the pricing directorate. Apparently, one can run that office from Boston, which might have lent me hope that Broitman could have stayed on, even from Manhattan. But as she is indeed leaving, Under Secretary Kendall should waste no time in finding a replacement. Industrial strategy is too important to be made on a case-by-case, program-by-program basis.
James Hasik is a senior fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.