American industry today is unable to expand its production to
meet wartime mobilization needs in less than eighteen months. It is not
possible to surge the output of even the most important weapons and war
materials much faster than that. The nation has been dependent for years on
foreign sources of raw materials. Now it is becoming dependent for critical
manufactured goods as well, including some high-technology products that are
essential to defense production."
That is the gist of the problem as summarized by the Air
Force Association and the USNI Military Database in "Lifeline in
Danger," their September 1988 assessment of the US defense industrial
base. Contractors are leaving defense industry by the thousands. Even in
peacetime, the domestic industrial base cannot meet defense needs. The Pentagon
does not know how reliant its prime contractors are on foreign sources or the
extent to which they count on the same limited domestic sources for surge production.
Among the reasons why the problem developed were the
instability of defense funding, an incredible tangle of confusing legislation,
poorly structured—and sometimes conflicting—incentives and disincentives, an
adversarial relationship between government and industry, and general neglect
of the industrial base.
A year after the report was published, the lifeline is
still in danger. The defense industrial base continues to decline. The only
encouraging news is that the problem now has high visibility in both houses of
Congress and that the Pentagon is giving it more serious attention than it once
"Lifeline in Danger" called for a Presidential
Commission to lead the recovery. No commission has been named, but a bill
introduced by Sen. Alan J. Dixon (D-Ill.) would establish an Industrial
Capabilities Committee appointed by the President to "assure a realistic
assessment of the demands to be placed upon industry by national defense plans
and industry's capabilities to fulfill those expectations."
Already established in the Pentagon is a new office headed
by Richard E. Donnelly, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and
Industrial Programs. Mr. Donnelly and his small staff of career civil servants
and military officers constitute the focal point for industrial base matters.
A key part of Mr. Donnelly's operation is the Office of Industrial Base
OIBA, headed by John E. DuBreuil, is leading the effort to
gather crucial information. It is not waiting for legislation or more studies
before beginning work. The current concentration is on critical foreign vulnerabilities.
Examples of US reliance on foreign sources range from the
commonplace to the exotic. They include quartz fibers, semiconductors,
bearings, fasteners, precision optics, and machine tools. Also on the list is
an essential ingredient for the atropine Syrettes issued to troops .for use in
case of nerve-gas attack. Belladonna, an essential ingredient in the compound,
comes from a sole foreign source: Bulgaria.
OIBA's major means of data collection is the Defense
Industrial Network (DINET). Other data-collection actions include reviewing
subcontractors' reports of foreign purchases, reviewing the production bases'
analyses of the armed services, and developing a Joint Industrial Mobilization
Planning Process (JIMPP) under the leadership of the Joint Staff.
Mr. Donnelly told Congress that we have done fairly well at
identifying problems; not so well at determining which are the most serious
problems or [at] developing solutions." Thus the need to collect data,
tie existing data sources together, and use available data more effectively so
that comparisons and policy analyses are built on credible data foundations.
DoD has invested about $1.4 million in DINET since 1985. A basic operating capability had been built, and DINET was functioning on a modest basis. According to Mr. DuBreuil, DoD is applying resources to DINET and other data-collection activities at a rate that is prudent and consistent with development of the information base.
One might assume that all the requisite information must
already exist in government databases somewhere. It doesn't. Information is
fragmented, in different formats for different purposes in different departments,
or just plain unavailable. The information may be in contractors' files, and
to extract data raises issues of cost and proprietary rights.
DINET now has the capabilities to identify alternate
sources, perform facility-impact assessments, provide corporate profiles, and
identify major suppliers for about 3,000 weapon systems.
Gaps in the Net
Major suppliers can be identified, but not the
subcontractors at lower tiers. The OIBA staff has exercised the system to
identify subcontractors for critical components at increasingly lower tiers.
In early 1989, for example, OIBA tracked specialty glass
used in several important weapon systems. Beginning with the special glass in
the target acquisition designation system/ pilot night-vision system (TADS/
PNVS) of the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, OIBA staff tracked the supply to
The search led from the AH-64 prime contractor (McDonnell
Douglas) to the TADSIPNVS subcontractor, Martin Marietta, then through a
series of subcontractors. After working down through seven or eight tiers of
subcontractors, the searchers found the source of special glass for the
TADS/PNVS: the Schott Co. in Pennsylvania.
They also learned that Schott is the sole supplier for all
systems that use precision glass. All primes and major subcontractors get their
glass from Schott. Another surprise: Schott, a lower-tier subcontractor with no
direct relationship to DOD, had not been identified as a defense contractor.
The DINET database obviously needs to go beyond defense contractors.
The defense industrial base is not an isolated component of the national
economy; it is simply part of the national industrial base.
Other Sources, Other
SOCRATES is an information system maintained by the Defense
Intelligence Agency. It tracks capabilities around in the world in the
critical military technologies. The Pentagon recommends merging DINET and
SOCRATES into a single comprehensive industrial data-management system. So
far, that has not happened. However, the basic staff work has been done to make
it happen when the funds become available and the necessary directives are
Another effort was started by the Army. Called the
Army/Census Bureau survey, it was intended to obtain information on US
manufacturers' ability to expand production capacity and assess foreign dependency.
It was supposed to provide statistically valid information and to be linked
with DINET. The survey was stillborn for several reasons, among them industry
opposition (manufacturers regarded it as burdensome, costly, and possibly redundant)
and the Army budget squeeze. According to the General Accounting Office, a
decision on whether to try again has been postponed until 1992.
Richard Donnelly says the DI-NET system currently serves seventy
users in thirteen DoD organizations. It is being expanded as resources permit
and as the necessary compatibility of data from different sources can be
achieved. GAO estimates that getting DINET to full capability would cost between
$7 million and $29 million. To date, only $1.4 million has been committed.
In the Senate, Senator Dixon has led the effort to renew the Defense Production Act (which was to have expired on September 30, 1989) and to provide the administration with the tools to revitalize the defense industrial base. Other key legislators, such as Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N. M.), and Sen. Donald Riegle (D-Mich.), have taken action to gather information and illuminate the issues. The Defense Production Act falls under the purview of the Senate and House banking committees, not that of the armed services committees.
The Defense Production Act (DPA) is the basic authority for
industrial preparedness planning. It was passed during the Korean War, when
Presidential authority was required to remobilize alter the post-World-War-II
dismantling of the defense industrial base. Over the years, the DPA has been
amended to reflect changing conditions.
Title I authorizes the President to order priority
performance and allocate materials to promote national defense. It was used in
1988 to assign high priority to rebuilding the burned-down factory in Nevada
that had supplied fifty percent of domestic capacity for ammonium perchlorate,
an essential ingredient in rocket-motor propellant. As a consequence of the
Title I priority, the plant will begin producing ammonium perchlorate within
one year, rather than the two to three years such a construction contract would
Air Force Systems Command is the DOD executive agent for
Title III, which authorizes the President to make purchases, purchase guarantees,
loans, and loan guarantees in order to expand national defense-related
productive capacity and supply. Senator Dixon recently cited a prime example
of using Title III as it was intended. High-purity quartz fiber is an important
ingredient in complex electronics. The sole source for the quartz fiber was
France. The French contractor was providing fiber slowly, causing delays in
critical DOD programs. By using the purchase-guarantee provisions of Title
III, the Defense Department was able to encourage a US firm, Fiber Materials
of Columbus, Ohio, to begin production. Now DoD has a domestic source for the
critical high-purity quartz fiber. Furthermore, Fiber Materials is delivering
on time and is an effective competitor for the French supplier.
Title VII contains general authorities useful to industrial
preparedness. A new provision, added in 1988, gives the President authority
to block mergers, acquisitions, or takeovers of US firms by foreign entities if
he determines the acquisition would threaten or impair US national security.
Congress and DPA
A House subcommittee of the Banking Committee has been considering
a bill offered by Rep. Mary Rose Oakar (D-Ohio). It would require that within
five years, all DoD purchases be made from domestic sources. The intent is to
preserve the domestic industrial base and remove US dependence on foreign
sources. DoD does not support the bill, contending that its provisions will not
strengthen and may weaken the US industrial base.
The Senate Banking Committee has before it Senator Dixon's
bill to extend the Defense Production Act through 1993 and to strengthen substantially
the three remaining operative titles. His legislation would create a revolving
fund to provide stable funding for Title III projects. It would also look to
the stockpiling of critical components that the US buys from foreign sources
because it lacks materials or because domestic production is not economical.
It recommends provisions to encourage investment by defense contractors in
modern production facilities and processes. The Dixon bill would expand
antitrust defenses now available in Title VII to encourage industry-sponsored
joint ventures for the production and development of products.
Although the Defense Production Act was due to expire on
September 30 of this year, cooperation between House and Senate banking committees
resulted in an extension of its life to June 30, 1990. The purpose: to permit
extensive hearings on defense industrial base issues, especially in the
Senate. As a result of the extension, more congressional attention will be
given to those issues this winter than ever before.
The Defense Management Review, published in July by
Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, recognizes that the government-industry
relationship needs work. Deputy Secretary of Defense Donald Atwood was struck
by what he found when he moved into the Pentagon.
He said the confrontational atmosphere between Congress,
DoD, and the defense contractors contributed to the erosion of the industrial
base. He said, "The extent of the mistrust . . . is shocking. I have never
seen anything like it."
He and Secretary Cheney believe that the confrontational
atmosphere is "completely unnecessary and, more importantly, it wastes
scarce resources that could be used in other, more productive endeavors."
To overcome the confrontational atmosphere, Cheney, Atwood,
and their colleagues are trying multiple approaches. The new Defense Manufacturing
Board, for example, provides a nonadversarial means of communication and
cooperation. John Betti, the new Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition,
will head a regulatory relief task force. It will conduct a thorough review of
regulations from the ground up in an attempt to reduce the grief involved in
doing business with DoD.
Secretary Cheney hopes to turn DoD into a "world-class
customer," setting high DoD and industry goals for quality, reliability,
and management improvement. That means raising DoD's internal operations to a
higher quality level, while at the same time requiring contractors to make
their own improvements.
Areas for improvement include acquisition streamlining by
cutting system requirements to basic needs and eliminating costly, complex, and
unneeded specifications. Given a high priority for achieving world-class
customer status is DoD's Total Quality Management program.
Finally, as stressed by Christopher Galvin of Motorola
(Chairman of the Quality Committee of the Defense Manufacturing Board),
"Congress itself may have to commit to reform legislation on a fast-track
basis," and set high quality goals for itself. Galvin advocates changing
Congress's role from "constructive operations management" (diplomatic
language for micromanagement) to that of a "kind of board of directors
for the Department of Defense."
F. Clifton Berry, Jr., is a former Editor in Chief of AIR
FORCE Magazine. He saw USAF service in the Berlin Airlift, 1948-49. Later, he
was a paratrooper and an officer in the 82d Airborne Division. He commanded
airborne and infantry units in the US and Korea and saw Vietnam combat as
operations officer of a light infantry brigade. His most recent article for AIR
FORCE Magazine, "New Tools for Mission Planners," appeared in the
August '89 issue.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag