Center for Strategic Decision Research


Keys to a Stronger U.S. and Allied Defense

Mr. Alfred Volkman
Director for International Cooperation,
Office of U.S. Under Secretary of Defense

I would like to make five points that I hope will contribute to our discussion on the interface among strategic planning, procurement, and research. First, it is more important than ever for alliances to cooperate effectively in military operations with allies and friends. Second, a strong, coherent industrial base, of which people are the most important part, is fundamental to military capability. Third, we are undergoing a revolution in military affairs; investment in science and technology is essential if we are to manage that revolution to our benefit. Fourth, government procurement and acquisition systems are in constant need of reform. Finally, there is no substitute for good planning.


From the beginning of our history as a nation, alliances have played an essential part in the national security of the United States. They will be even more important in the 21st century; we will be increasingly dependent on allies for support. While we are fortunate to have strong alliances now on which to build, it will be very challenging to sustain these alliances in the future. The U.S. must strengthen its alliance with Europe and, as its focus on the Pacific increases, the United States must strengthen its defense cooperation with Japan, Australia, Korea, and Singapore. It is essential that the U.S. maintain strong relationships with its allies, and encourage them to improve their military capabilities and share with them the technology necessary to achieve that goal.


The industrial base is contracting and consolidating both in Europe and the United States. Globalization has increasingly made the U.S. and its allies dependent on industries outside our borders for military capability. Allied governments must work together and with industry to ensure that our mutual industrial base contributes to our security. Governments must make the investments necessary to enable industry to quickly transform technology into military capability and ensure that programs and funding are stable. Industry and government together must reduce the significant excess capacity that still exists and invest in hiring and keeping talented people by paying them well and providing them intellectually stimulating work. This is not just industry's problem. The U.S. Department of Defense needs to concentrate on hiring and training a new generation of government employees.


The revolution in military affairs is being driven by major advances in commercial technology. Thirty years ago, defense research and development was twice that of commercial R&D. Today, private sector R&D is five times that of defense. We must make the investment necessary to leverage civilian technical strength to increase our military capability-especially in such areas as space, communications, and information technologies. We need to increase our investment in science and technology where the greatest breakthroughs occur.


Government acquisition systems are invariably drawn toward rules and regulations designed to ensure a variety of sometimes conflicting objectives-such as treating all competitors fairly or ensuring that certain groups (small businesses, domestic producers) receive some form of preferential treatment. In the United States, our acquisition system has become more cumbersome as Congress has passed legislation to correct deficiencies reported in the newspapers (for example, expensive hammers and coffee pots). Government acquisition systems need constant attention and efforts to improve them.


Defense planning is always an uncertain proposition. Today it is more uncertain than ever, but we must plan properly for the challenges we will meet together in the future. We must strengthen our Alliance, preserve our industrial resources, and improve the conditions for closer cooperation between governments and industries.








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