Pentagon looks to international business to keep U.S. defense industry viable

By John Keller
It's more than a bit unsettling when the Pentagon starts developing weapon systems in a way that indicates the needs of the U.S. military simply are no longer sufficient to support the U.S. defense industry.

Still, that's what we're starting to see.

Defense News ran a story this week headlined Pentagon Aims to Reduce Time, Cost for Weapons Design that says Pentagon leaders are considering designing new weapons that would make it easier for foreign nations to buy them.

Now why would the Pentagon have an interest in that, and why now? It sounds like they're concerned about a rapidly contracting domestic defense industry that's facing nearly half a trillion dollars in budget cuts over the next 10 years due to a congressional process called sequestration .

Another term for sequestration is the fiscal cliff , which daily is looking more difficult to avoid.

The Pentagon needs a viable defense industry to supply its weapons and equipment needs over the long term. If the U.S. military can't provide enough business to keep the defense industry solvent, then what might be the next best thing?

Increasingly, it looks like the Pentagon is looking to international military forces to pick up the slack. Established allies typically don't have much problem buying from U.S. defense companies. So what's up with this new policy, which some are calling Better Buying Power 2.0?

Plans under consideration call for enhanced exportability within development programs, and include one program for a radar and another for an electronic warfare system that will serve as pilots for this effort, according to Defense News .

I can just envision a new position in the Pentagon -- deputy undersecretary of defense for marketing. Foreign militaries, have we got a deal for you? C'mon down!

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12
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