Center for Strategic Decision Research


International Cooperation: Advantages and Challenges

Mr. Alfred Volkman
Director of International Cooperation,
Office of the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Acquistion, Technology, and Logistics

Director of International Cooperation Alfred Volkman
"Every major conflict that [the U.S.] fought in during the twentieth century was with allies. In the twenty-first century, a rapid capture of Baghdad was possible as a result of our allies and the United Kingdom armed forces, who isolated Basra."


The advantages of international cooperation are so obvious that they really need no repeating, but there are sometimes advantages to repeating them anyway—since they are important militarily, politically, and industrially. 

The Military Advantages. From the U.S. perspective, the military advantages of cooperation are evident if you look at the history of the United States in the twentieth century. Every major conflict that we fought in during the twentieth century was with allies—I think sometimes the American public does not think about that, but it’s true. In the twenty-first century, a rapid capture of Baghdad was possible as a result of our allies and the United Kingdom armed forces, who isolated Basra. It would have been much more difficult if that had not happened. 

The Political Advantages. There are political advantages, obviously, to international military cooperation. The American public, and I believe most democratic people, expect that allies will share the risks and the rewards that are associated with engaging in military operations outside their borders. 

The Industrial Advantages. Obviously, you can save money through sharing R&D expenditures, something that European nations are wrestling with now and trying to get a grip on. There are also obviously economies of scale associated with cooperating in the production of defense equipment. And there is the opportunity to apply manufacturing capabilities that are unique to particular countries and firms. In addition, there is the ability to share militarily useful technologies. I would also point out here that I believe, and I think many in the United States agree, that no single nation possesses all the technologies necessary for successful military operations in the twenty-first century. Those technologies exist in places around the world, and if we are going to be successful we need to share them.  


While international cooperation has many advantages, there are also a number of challenges to it, particularly to international industrial cooperation.  

Inadequate Defense Spending. One of the challenges we see in the United States is an unwillingness on the part of our European allies to spend adequately on defense. In our view, the money that is spent is often spent on the wrong thing 

Protectionist Legislation. Protectionism in defense cooperation and defense industrial cooperation is a problem. There are many in the U.S. Congress who do not understand the benefits of international cooperation, both to our security and our economy. So protectionist legislation is frequently proposed in the United States Congress without consideration of the effects that it might have on our economic well-being and on our security.  Similarly, in my view, European parliaments are frequently more concerned with the economic benefits associated with industrial cooperation for military requirements than they are with the military benefits that will accrue as a result of that cooperation. General Jones alluded to the problem that, in fact, there were instances when useful military equipment needed to be put in the hands of fighting men but disagreements over industrial benefits prevented that—certainly a concern. 

Unwillingness to Share Technology. Governments are frequently unwilling to share a technology. When firms are unwilling to share a technology, it is usually to preserve a commercial advantage, and most of us who come from capitalist countries understand the desire to preserve a commercial advantage. But when governments refuse to share a technology with their allies, the reasons are usually far more complex. In my experience, unwillingness to share technologies is probably the major challenge to closer industrial cooperation between the United States and its allies. 




















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