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Research Report

FUTURE FOUNDRY: A New Strategic Approach to Military-Technical Advantage

Ben FitzGerald
Alexandra Sander
Jacqueline Parziale
Foreword by the William J. Lynn
Sean O’Keefe
Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2016
Pages: 53

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-2)
  2. (pp. 3-3)
  3. (pp. 4-6)
    William J. Lynn III and Sean O’Keefe

    U.S. defense supremacy has always rested on the shoulders of the highest quality fighting men and women in the world and the vast technological and manufacturing prowess of American industry. When President Roosevelt during World War II called for the production of 100,000 aircraft in a single year, it wasn’t some random, outsized stretch goal to spur productivity. America responded to the commander in chief by flexing its 1944 industrial muscles like no nation ever before, churning out 96,270 military aircraft in an awesome display of manufacturing might.¹

    Today, the diverse industrial capacity of the United States remains vital to...

  4. (pp. 7-9)
  5. (pp. 10-13)

    Concerns over the United States’ military-technical superiority are not new, and criticisms of the Department of Defense’s acquisition system are long-standing. As Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has noted, “Acquisition reform has been a perennial topic in defense circles for years.”⁴ Despite near-annual attempts to address acquisition problems since the Packard Commission in 1986 – including recent reform efforts, such as the Better Buying Power initiatives launched by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology, and Logistics (USD (AT&L)) and major Congressional reforms through 2016 and 2017 National Defense Authorization...

  6. (pp. 14-19)

    The United States’ ability to generate decisive military-technical advantages in the 20th century was a function of DoD strategies that elegantly aligned strategic needs with compelling capabilities, via business models that capitalized on, and contributed to, the nation’s unique natural strengths.

    During the Second World War, the United States built the arsenal of democracy on the basis of American industrial might, a feat of mobilization and mass. The early Cold War saw the nation shift to the New Look, or First Offset Strategy, which leveraged the country’s cutting-edge laboratories and technical talent (some of it of foreign origin) to limit...

  7. (pp. 20-34)

    The DoD’s outdated approach to technology strategy contributes to the diminution of U.S. military-technical advantage. Failure to adapt to global trends has led to capability monocultures and an ever-dwindling variety of weapons systems, procured at higher prices and in lower quantities than ever before.24 This trend cannot be reversed simply through acquisition reform initiatives or attempts to acquire new “game changing” weapons systems, as evidenced by the many recent sensible yet unimplemented recommendations and the various programs canceled by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Instead, success will be determined by reinforcing current technological strengths and acquisition methods while rapidly...

  8. (pp. 35-36)

    Recognizing the need for reform and witnessing insufficient action on part of the DoD, Congress has sought leadership in rebuilding the defense acquisition system. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees, under the respective leadership of Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), are attempting to drive change through the budget, organizational structures, and authorities provisioned by the annual NDAA. An updated strategic approach articulated by senior leadership in the Department of Defense, however, will require and enable Congress to take new kinds of action, in addition to traditional budget and oversight obligations, while retreating from its self-appointed...

  9. (pp. 37-42)

    The United States’ defense industrial base is in the midst of a slow, well-managed decline. Revenues are stagnant (even among the top five defense companies of 2016), firms are restructuring themselves, consolidating, or exiting from the defense market to manage shrinking DoD acquisition budgets, and both company and DoD expenditures on R&D are in decline.82 In order to return value to shareholders in such an environment, defense specialists are spending large portions of their free cash flow on share buybacks instead of investing in growth opportunities.83 While these are rational short-term business choices, their long-term impact on national security is...

  10. (pp. 43-44)

    Successful implementation of a new strategic approach for developing military-technical advantage will require action from the DoD, Congress, and industry. However, change must start at the top of the DoD. The incoming secretary of defense will need to establish from the outset that developing a new strategic approach is a priority. The secretary should announce from his or her confirmation hearing that he or she strongly believes in the need to establish a new strategic approach and intends to work closely with Congress to develop and implement changes.

    The topic of acquisition reform almost certainly will arise in any hearing,...

  11. (pp. 45-50)
  12. (pp. 51-52)