Senior DOD officials meet with top contractors to discuss defense industrial base

By Tony Bertuca / November 8, 2022 at 4:59 PM

Top Pentagon officials today met with executives from the largest defense companies to discuss issues and challenges related to the defense industrial base.

The meeting, led by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, included Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante, Pentagon technology chief Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities Mara Karlin and Deborah Rosenblum, the assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs who is performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for industrial base policy.

Industry attendees included executives from Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, General Dynamics, Boeing Defense, Space and Security, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Huntington Ingalls Industries and L3Harris Technologies.

Hicks, according to a readout of the meeting provided by the Pentagon, “underscored the deep and longstanding relationship between the Department of Defense and America’s defense industrial base,” and “reinforced the department’s strategic competition priorities under the National Defense Strategy, which require sustained industry engagement and support to address critical needs in the near- mid- and long-term.”

Meanwhile, industry executives asked questions and commented on “accelerating weapons development and production and building more capacity across the industrial base for producing weapons and equipment -- to include workforce challenges caused by an exceptionally challenging jobs market, caused by low unemployment.”

Last week, LaPlante said boosting production contracts, especially for weapons that have proved critical in Ukraine’s fight against Russia, have become a top Pentagon priority.

“Ukraine is not holding their own against Russia with quantum, they’re not holding their own with AI, whatever your favorite gadget is,” he said. “It is hardcore production of really serious weaponry and that’s what matters.”

LaPlante said last week he believes Congress is set to provide DOD more authority and funding to enter into multiyear contracts, thus giving the defense industrial base the demand signal required to invest in hot production lines.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said the Tuesday meeting is just the latest in an ongoing series of discussions senior defense officials have had with defense contractors.

“Across the defense acquisition, commercial industry and organic industrial base workforces, the department is working with its partners to invest in recruiting, retaining and adapting the workforce so the full spectrum of the defense ecosystem will be able to leverage advanced manufacturing techniques and a highly skilled labor pool when producing innovative capabilities,” the Pentagon said.