Center for Strategic Decision Research


International Acquisition Cooperation: A Transformation Imperative

The Honorable Michael W. Wynne
U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Acquistion, Technology, and Logistics

Under Secretary of Defense Michael Wynne
Industrial cooperation with allies is "a fundamental step for improving joint operational capabilities" and "not only desirable but an imperative."


Many different people are taking part in this Workshop: NATO allies, members of our international coalitions in Afghanistan and Iraq, Partnership for Peace members, and those engaged with us in maritime patrols, exercises, and information exchanges. This wide variety of voices is one of the best attributes of these meetings—it shows us that our different cultures and sometimes different politics share common attributes and interests, and that those attributes and interests are a source of great strength for us all. Each of us is contributing to the common good of global order—increasing prosperity and security as well as representative governments and individual rights—in our own way and according to our own means. Understanding and cooperation are leading to a more collegial and congenial world, even though there are some awkward moments along the way. 

One of those awkward moments came a while ago when I was in Russia. I had just transferred some Russian expertise to my own operation, and my Russian colleagues and I were having a celebratory dinner. Since I had known that I would be making some brief remarks, I had practiced telling a joke story in Russian. I had even kept a newly trained language expert awake with my recitation. After I was introduced and had told my joke—there had been very polite laughter and applause—I felt pretty good. That was until my local representative leaned over and said, “They’re wondering why the horse had to die.” I said, “There was no horse in the story.” He said, “Ohhh!” 

Despite this kind of awkwardness, defense cooperation will continue to play an essential role in furthering global security. Through cooperative efforts we will ensure that every participant is as effective as possible in the coalition wars we will fight in the future. Effective industrial cooperation with our allies is a fundamental step for improving joint operational capabilities. 


In the past, we cooperated successfully in developing several systems: the Rolling Airframe missile, enhanced Harrier vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft, NATO Sea Sparrow missile, Hawk, and Multiple Launch Rocket System. Current programs such as the Joint Strike Fighter, Medium Extended Air Defense System, NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance, Eurohawk, and Multi-functional Information Distribution System provide what we hope are models of further defense cooperation. 

As a businessman, I have developed programs in both Korea and Taiwan and have great respect for those colleagues’ capabilities. My Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Dr. Ron Sega, recently returned from a series of talks in Asia focused on expanding our defense acquisition cooperation in this region. We began partnering early in the development phase of this cooperation when requirements could be harmonized and costs, technology, and work could be apportioned equitably. 

I believe that the international defense industry has much to contribute to U.S. defense capabilities. From technologies such as microelectromechanical systems and composite materials to subsystems such as high-thrust rocket propulsion systems to the world-class helicopters produced by European firms, the U.S. can benefit greatly from cooperating with its allies. 


Unfortunately, differing national priorities, governmental processes, and relative investment strategies have always created roadblocks to successful cooperation. Even with major efforts on the part of both the U.S. and foreign governments and bodies, a number of impediments to closer defense-industrial cooperation remain. But while there are negative aspects of past and present international cooperation in research and technology, there is good news as well. The U.S. and its allies and trading partners are natural candidates for closer cooperation in developing technology and equipment. We have cooperated in some successful programs in the past, and we can do more in the future. 


Let’s address the real needs for the future—needs that must be met if we are to fight the new types of enemies who threaten not just one country or its interests but the fundamental fabric of the civilizations Americans and our friends live in. 

Knowledge-Based Warfare

The overriding objective of U.S. defense acquisition is acquiring materiel and systems that enable knowledge-based warfare. Also known as knowledge-enabled warfare, this kind of warfare is the direction we are moving in. We are also moving toward knowledge-enabled logistics and knowledge-enabled business. Any product generated in the next few years that does not move our defense-enterprise posture in this direction is unlikely to reach the field. 

A specific example: Since January 2004, we require that all purchases be marked with a unique identifier and that the value of that marked part be recorded in our inventory. This process is a prelude to two future processes: First, starting in July 2004, any DoD-purchased item costing more than $5,000 will need to have a radio-frequency ID (RFID) tag, or Smart Tag. Second, this marking and recording will enable us to hold an accurate audit. 

While we are woefully late with unique identification (UID), we will be on the leading edge for RFID. Walmart figured out RFID before we did, but given the scope of our logistics challenge, our need to go this route, and quickly, is obvious. So you will find we are partnering with Walmart for RFID, and between the two organizations we will cover a wide dispersion of manufacturing and distribution. Here’s a partnering opportunity for all of you as well: We will be looking for your ideas and innovations in UID and RFID technology. 

Network Centricity

Network centricity is another important area. If our new systems are not network centric, if the information collected by our many and growing numbers of sensors is not available to all who could make use of it, then we are not trading manpower for technology as efficiently as we might. The U.S. strategic scope is global, but we have to arrive quickly, with overwhelming forces that departed on short notice. The demands for information gathering, processing, disseminating, and reprocessing are driving us toward networked, interoperable solutions. 

Just about every platform one can think of—a strike aircraft, an infantry vehicle, or a warship—is, or will eventually be, an information gatherer. Traditionally, the information those platforms have gathered has been reserved for their own use: defense, targeting, and so on. But this must change. 

The U.S. Army’s Future Combat System and the Navy’s Cooperative Engagement Capability offer examples of the way forward. The basic premise of both systems is networking and information sharing. In fact, that premise underlies our entire push toward knowledge-enabled warfare, which is, with our technological edge, that just about any platform—from satellites to submarines, from unmanned aerial vehicles to infantrymen—can generate some level of information that can be turned into intelligence and networked for anyone in a battle space to use. 

Information-Age Logistics

But we must not forget the other cornerstone of operations: logistics. Our military services have come far in reducing the iron mountains of munitions and parts that were necessary for Industrial Age warfare. But they have not come far enough to meet the new needs of Information Age warfare. The navy needs to buy ships in which crew members can lock the engine rooms during deployment. We do not have airmen servicing B-52 engines on global missions, so why should we tolerate sailors doing this on destroyers? In addition, the army needs to field hybrid-fuel, ultrareliable engines for use across their vehicle fleet. And the air force must have expeditionary strike aircraft that do not need to take an entire airbase of parts and technicians with them to remote regions of the world. We also need corrosion-resistant trucks, and we need expeditionary logistics units that can defend themselves against attacks by insurgents and are protected against theater ballistic missiles. Our ports and offshore sustainment stocks are also going to need manned and unmanned maritime surveillance for protection. 

Industrial Partnerships

Our new national security era, with its new international security relationships, demands innovation, practical near-term responses, and efficient resourcing. That is where international industrial partnerships can play a crucial role. If allies and partners want to work with us, they must ask themselves how consistent a particular product is with our goals: fighting from a position of technological dominance, providing integrated and efficient logistics, rationalizing resources, and developing and fielding products with a systems-engineering philosophy established at the outset. 

As our international partners offer solutions, systems, and capabilities—and we expect brilliance and innovation from them—they must keep our goals and our new approach to fighting in mind. They must also reflect on the priority our national leadership has given to military transformation and remember the basic element of that transformation—knowledge-enabled warfare and all that it entails: network centricity; joint operations; and multi-mission, multi-service, and cross-cultural capability. 


It would probably be prudent at this point to briefly discuss how we in the U.S. Department of Defense are approaching the transformation of our defense establishment into an establishment even more attuned to securing global security in the twenty-first century. Let me briefly address each of the seven key guideposts that I feel are central to maintaining our path to excellence. 

1. Acquisition Excellence with Integrity. It is crucial that we improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and performance of our acquisition processes in order to provide our warfighters with systems of ever-increasing capability—systems that maintain a technological edge over the competition, incorporate user feedback, and provide quality at an affordable cost. Many European nations and multinational forces as well as other allies and friends are also incorporating reforms into their acquisition systems. 

2. Integrated and Efficient Logistics. Our vision for the logistics officer of the future is someone who will be the commander’s combat power manager. At his or her fingertips will be a precise account of how much combat power—in terms of combat systems, munitions, fuel, and replacement stocks—is at hand and how much would be expended during a given course of action. This is a fertile area and one in which we and all of our defense partners need to apply some smart thinking. In this area, interoperability takes on different, but no less important, characteristics than in operations. 

3. Systems Integration and Engineering for Mission Success. It is important for us to reenergize the systems view of integrated architectures by instilling systems engineering best practices at all levels of our architectures. Network-centric, Information Age warfighting demands increasingly complex interoperability at the systems-of-systems, systems, and component levels. 

4. Technology Dominance. This is the standard for future research technologies. Both we and our allies and partners possess technology necessary for the development of all defense-related systems. Warfighters and logisticians must have technologically superior military systems, and we in the U.S. fully recognize that our country does not have a lock on leading technologies. However, both we and each of our allies have technologies all of us need to ensure that coalitions have the best possible equipment—and can interoperate. We are now investing heavily in new and emerging technology and encouraging partnering when it makes sense. However, once we achieve a breakthrough after several wrong turns and much investment, most commercial firms and many government agencies would understand the reluctance to destroy by disclosure the effects of that breakthrough and the reluctance of bankers or funding sources to allow further pursuit of other costly technologies. Much like destroying patents, it decays our ability to continue our investment stream. 

5. Rationalization of Resources. In the U.S. Defense Department, we are constantly seeking ways to make optimum use of our people, materiel, and money through such means as improving joint-service use of assets, transforming some of our support functions to industry, and repositioning infrastructure around the world. But there is another area that I believe is very important from both the overall Alliance and coalition perspectives, and that is the rationalization of requirements for military assets. Our respective governments spend too much money on duplicating already-existing capabilities or independently developing what is essentially the same capability. This ties up limited national budgets and precludes their use in filling stockpiles or modernizing other forces. All of us must do a better job of working together at both the government and the industry level to get the most “bang for the buck.” 

6. Strengthening the Industrial Base for Weapons System Design, Development, and Production as well as Logistics. Our primary thrust is to develop and employ a logical capabilities-based approach to identify and evaluate industrial-base sufficiency. We also must continually reassess export controls and focus international cooperation activities to leverage key foreign industrial capabilities. We recognize that at the core we need surety of supply, and we will be looking carefully to assure our soldiers that products will be available in times of need. Our reliance on international suppliers continues to be a cornerstone policy, and we are looking to expand that to our new trading partners. One key factor is that most true innovation comes from small suppliers; we are committed to helping these emerging companies navigate both the DoD and international systems. 

7. A Motivated, Agile Workforce. People make the difference in any endeavor. Both we and our international partners are concerned about continuing to attract the best to our workforce as we are asked to obtain great technology at fair prices on a determined schedule. We recognize that we must be competitive in commercial opportunities for these same skills, but also recognize that they are a strategic asset and represent to us a competitive advantage. We are looking at far-reaching compensation, training, and motivational programs to keep the best people working toward our security goals. 


These are basically my thoughts on what we in the U.S. Department of Defense, our industry, and our allies and partners need to be looking at to enhance global security in this century. DoD is confident that, in the future, armaments cooperation between the U.S. and its friends around the world will build on the strong base we have established, and that we will realize even more success. In these troubled times that involve entirely new and uncertain international paradigms, I believe that armaments cooperation is not only desirable, but an imperative.


Top of page | Home | ©2003 Center for Strategic Decision Research