Austin issues call to U.S. industry to help in contest against China

By Jason Sherman / December 4, 2021

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued "a call" to U.S. industry -- particularly information and technology innovation firms -- to help "bring the American way of war to the 21st century," directly appealing to national interest in the contest against China, previewing what he said is a pillar of the forthcoming National Defense Strategy.

In an address to an audience that included defense and non-traditional defense executives as well as members of Congress and senior military officials, Austin said the Biden administration’s new defense strategy will be built around a concept called “integrated defense” which, as a component, is predicated by active support of the armed forces by the domestic private sector.

“So let me offer a call to action to American businesses large and small -- and to everyone in this room, including industry leaders.” Austin said, during remarks at the Ronald Reagan National Defense Forum here today. “Join us, work with us, and help keep our country strong. Let's meet this moment with all the innovation and the ingenuity that America can muster. Because America's strength in the world depends on its strength at home.”

Austin said the new defense strategy he is spearheading for the Biden administration will be focused on the concept of integrated deterrence, which he said requires the Pentagon “to weave together cutting-edge technology and operational concepts and state-of-the-art capabilities to seamlessly dissuade aggression in any form, domain or theater.”

“Nobody can innovate better than the United States of America,” he said. “But we can't take that for granted.”

The defense secretary cited a number of initiatives and organizations the Pentagon has recently established to facilitate collaboration with innovative companies that have traditionally eschewed working with the government because of federal acquisition processes and rules.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is connecting its top research teams with corporate leaders and U.S. investors; the Defense Department is setting up so-called innovation hubs around the nation, including in Austin, Boston and recently in Seattle and Chicago, as well as increasing use of authorities to award contracts to small businesses.

For example, he said DOD has awarded 2,500 contracts this year to small companies working on “ground-breaking tech.”

Austin also cited the recently established Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve that aims to galvanize experimentation efforts across the department.

“To let us quickly see if promising tech and prototypes can help our warfighters. It helps identify our most pressing capability gaps and makes funds available to test new technologies that could be game changers. And it lets the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Space Force and the Marine Corps try out innovative tech and put them together at scale for the first time,” according to the secretary.

When the United States maintains its technical edge, it also retains its military edge, he added.

“The United States of America has an advantage that no autocracy can match: our combination of free enterprise, free minds and free people,” Austin said. “Even in times of challenge our democracy is a powerful engine for its own renewal.”