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United States Partnering with Allies to Increase Defense Production

The United States is working with its international partners to develop production lines for critical defense systems across the globe, a Defense Department official said May 3.

The health of the defense industrial base is a key topic among the United States and its allies in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante said during a panel discussion hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Over the last week, LaPlante met with national armaments directors from NATO and the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, and those discussions revealed the industrial base is “going to become a big focus for NATO,” he said.

“We’re all talking and setting up multi-year, multi-national contracts,” he said. “We’re setting up production lines in multiple countries. Everybody’s got the same supply issues, [and] we’re comparing notes.”

The United States is “a little bit ahead” of many of its allies in terms of ramping up defense production, having supported Ukraine by supplying weapons and other systems over the last year, he said. The European Union, for example, is “just starting to think about how they would even do that contracting … but it’s a different world, and every country sees it this way,” he said.

U.S.-based companies are working on setting up production lines in allied nations, and European-based organizations are doing the same in the United States, he added.

However, fully realizing this potential to develop integrated, international supply chains will require the United States to modernize its foreign military sales processes and regulations, said the National Defense Industrial Association’s executive vice president of strategy and policy Jennifer Stewart.

“Right now, we have member companies who are reporting it takes the same amount of time to do business with a major NATO ally — the U.K. — as it does with a major non-NATO ally with whom Washington’s having some political challenges right now,” she said.

Stewart said there is optimism that regulatory changes could come about as a result of the “political will” behind the Australia-United Kingdom-United States, or AUKUS, partnership, which would see the countries help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, as well as collaborate on other emerging technologies.

AUKUS is a “major geo-strategic priority” for President Joe Biden and his administration, but companies are “reporting that it’s taking months to share technical data between themselves and our Australian allies,” she said.

Regulatory reform in Congress will require not just the backing of the Defense Department, but that of the State and Commerce Departments and “harnessing the political will that the White House can bring,” she said.

LaPlante echoed Stewart’s comments, saying that “AUKUS will not work if we don’t have the data-sharing piece figured out.” And one key to speeding up the foreign military sales process is maintaining high levels of production, he added.

“Let’s get our production lines hot, and believe it or not, a lot of this stuff will speed up,” he said. “That’s where we need help from Congress: find a way to give companies … money so they can get the production lines hotter even before” a foreign military sales case has received approval.

Source : National Defense