On December 1, the Department of Defense (DoD) will finalize its plan for reorganizing the undersecretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics (AT&L) within Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) into two new undersecretariats. As DoD has itself acknowledged, this reorganization “provides a once in a generation opportunity to improve how the Department is organized and operates.”
When DoD submits its final reorganization, it should include decisive action to establish International Armaments Cooperation (IAC) on a more strategic footing so that, rather than simply being seen as a mechanism to offset procurement costs, it is empowered to contribute to global national security priorities.
IAC and Strategic Myopia
International Armaments Cooperation (IAC) refers to a suite of defense security cooperation programs involving technical and defense industrial base cooperation, including “cooperative research, development, test, and evaluation of defense technologies, systems, or equipment; joint production and follow-on support of defense articles or equipment; and procurement of foreign technology, equipment, systems or logistics support.”
For example, the department oversees the coproduction of military systems or equipment by U.S. and foreign providers, such as coproduction of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which entails cooperation with eight other strategic allies. IAC also includes exchange of relevant research and technical knowledge among scientists; reciprocal exchanges of logistics support; and combined research and development projects.
The fundamental challenge of IAC is that it sits at the crossroads of DoD’s own acquisition and force development activities and its engagement with international partners to pursue national security objectives overseas.
As such, it is driven by two separate considerations: on one hand, by acquisition priorities, cost considerations, and the expansion of technical knowledge to drive technological innovation; on the other hand, by opportunities to deepen partnerships, create new operational possibilities for the U.S. armed forces and potential coalition partners, and set conditions promoting success in contingencies.
Though these two considerations are not mutually exclusive, the current structure and management of IAC leads one of the two—acquisition objectives—to dominate the other, neglecting opportunities to advance key national security objectives overseas. (end of excerpt)
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