The Pentagon shortly plans to release a private sector questionnaire seeking inputs on industry’s ability to surge its capabilities to meet future battlefield needs, a Defense Department official said on Thursday.
The pending outreach to industry is part of the department’s data gathering for a report requested by President Donald Trump pursuant to an executive order on assessing the defense industrial base and associate supply chain.
The report, with findings and recommendations, is due in April, but is on track to be completed sooner, John “Jerry” McGinn, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy, said as part of a panel discussion hosted by The Heritage Foundation.
McGinn’s office typically assesses the health of the U.S. defense industrial base and also weighs in as part of the interagency process on defense-related mergers and acquisitions and on foreign investment in U.S. companies. What’s new under the president’s directive is “how the industrial base will be able to surge to meet future operational contingencies,” he said.
DoD constantly does operational scenario planning to help its commanders but with limited exceptions, this type of planning hasn’t been applied to the industrial base, McGinn said. The limited exceptions include planning around certain material and current work on precision guided munitions given the ongoing demand for these types of weapons, he said.
One analyst with Heritage spoke up from the audience during the question and answer session and cited Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, saying at a speech last week at the Air Force Association’s national conference that 150 PGMs are being fired daily in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, with 5,000 fired in August.
Bill Greenwalt, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, and who has worked with various congressional committees, including Senate Armed Services, industry, and in the Pentagon as deputy undersecretary of Defense Industrial Policy, said that in some cases, including PGMs, stockpiling is the answer to potential surge requirements.
The new modeling effort will “look at how the industrial base will be stressed and what could be stressed under specific operational scenarios and that will allow us to see potential production bottlenecks and the like,” McGinn said. “That’s where we don’t have a lot of information.”
McGinn said the “targeted,” voluntary questionnaire will go out to industry associations and companies instead of being issued through the government’s business opportunities website, FedBizOpps.gov. He said his office can work with the information it already has, which includes routine engagements with industry, but that there are things that it doesn’t know and this is where further help from the industrial base will “help us do this analysis.”
The forthcoming report will have unclassified and classified portions. The scenarios will not be disclosed, McGinn said.
Earlier this week, Marine Corp Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he is concerned that “Aging logistics infrastructure (i.e. roads, rails, ports, bases), along with an increasingly brittle defense industrial base have long-term consequences that limit our ability to sustain a protracted or simultaneous conflict.” Dunford’s statement appeared as part of a series of written responses to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee that were published on the committee’s website during his confirmation hearing for a second term.
Dunford on Wednesday was confirmed by the Senate for second two-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.