With the help of a former Pentagon official, the National Defense Industrial Association is taking on a new analysis of the industry meant to help inform the Defense Department as budgets shrink.
Talk of the industrial base — a term used to describe the collection of companies large and small that build the Pentagon’s equipment — has increased in recent months as trade groups, members of Congress and the companies themselves push the Pentagon to preserve capabilities, even as they cut spending. Some have argued that making certain cuts, such as closing combat vehicle manufacturing lines, could make it expensive and time consuming to restart them, should they be needed in the future.
The Pentagon has embarked on its own efforts to gauge the vulnerability of suppliers, but the NDIA said its analysis will be particularly helpful because companies can be more open with an industry group than the government.
Arnold L. Punaro, the newly tapped chairman of NDIA’s board, has selected Brett Lambert, who last year retired as deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing and industrial base policy, to lead the new review.
The companies are “very reluctant to provide proprietary information” to the [Defense] Department, Punaro said. “They’re very excited about participating in something that’s industry-led.”
Lambert said the analysis will be different than the studies undertaken by other trade groups.
“Not everybody in the industry is going to be joyful about this effort,” Lambert said in an interview. “This is not going to be another white paper that says you have to protect the industrial base; it’s going to be a fact-based understanding of what the industrial base looks like.”
Lambert said his analysis will include considering whether there are commercial firms that could fill certain needs that are not working with the government and whether there are areas in which the Pentagon has too much capacity.
As a result, he said he expects that some companies that see their work as critical may not be regarded as such by the study.
He stressed that the report will not be a lobbying effort.
“This is a fact-finding mission,” Lambert said. “I’m sure there are industries that are asking for help that do not play in the road map the [Defense] Department has put forward.”
A Pentagon spokeswoman said the department is conducting “rigorous analysis” of the industrial base.
“We welcome additional data and analysis to help inform our decisions,” she said in a statement.
Punaro said NDIA’s desire to back the analysis was spurred by a sense that there’s an opportunity for change — in the way the industry handles a decline in government spending and how the Pentagon addresses acquisition reform.
“If I thought this was going to go to the dustbin of history, we wouldn’t put the impact of our 1,600 member [companies] behind it,” he said.