The Defense Department today released its first strategy for ensuring that the U.S. defense industrial base meets the demands of a challenging national security landscape well into the future.

The 59-page National Defense Industrial Strategy lays out long-term priorities that will guide DOD actions and resource prioritization with the aim of creating a modern, resilient defense industrial ecosystem designed to deter U.S. adversaries and meet the production demands posed by evolving threats.  

“We are implementing the National Defense Industrial Strategy now to ensure that our defense industrial base continues to both strengthen our national security here at home while reassuring and supporting allies and partners,” said Laura D. Taylor-Kale, assistant secretary of defense for industrial base policy, in unveiling the strategy from the Pentagon.

Taylor-Kale underscored the urgent need to shore up the defense industrial base as U.S. adversaries build up their military power to levels not seen since World War II. She noted China’s increasing threat to upend existing international order. She also highlighted the United States’ continued support for Ukraine as it defends itself from Russian aggression and for Israel in its fight against Hamas.

The defense industrial base must continue to meet present demands, while at the same time remaining capable of adapting to future conflicts.  

“This arsenal of democracy helped win both world wars and the Cold War,” Taylor-Kale said. “And long into the future, it can and must provide that same enduring advantage in support of integrated deterrence.” 

The strategy focuses on four key areas critical to building a modernized defense industrial ecosystem over the next three to five years. Those areas include resilient supply chains, workforce readiness flexible acquisition and economic deterrence.

The strategy calls for several actions to achieve resilient supply chains, including establishing public-private partnerships, risk-sharing mechanisms and technology. These are sharing structures aimed at incentivizing industry to improve resilience and invest in extra capacity.

The NDIS also calls for increasing stockpiles of strategic and critical systems to decrease near-term risk, diversifying the defense industrial base supplier base, expanding production methods, and addressing evolving cyber threats to the supply chain, among other actions.

In terms of workforce development, the strategy aims to develop a “sufficiently skilled and staffed workforce that is diverse and representative of America.” It calls for investments in skill development programs and advanced manufacturing workforce pipelines and the expansion of recruitment efforts for nontraditional communities, among other actions.  

The strategy also seeks to develop flexible acquisition strategies by emphasizing interoperability with key partners and paying consideration to exportability during the system design phase. The NDIS also calls for the prioritization of commercial, off-the-shelf acquisition where applicable to drive innovation and expand the defense supplier base.  

Additionally, the NDIS calls for strengthening economic security agreements and creating new mechanisms for sharing technology with allies in order to achieve economic deterrence.

Defense officials said the strategy was far more than an “aspirational document,” noting that the department is finalizing its implementation plan, which will detail measurable actions and metrics to gauge progress on the goals.

“The [implementation] plan is going to focus on actualizing the four strategic priorities laid out in the strategy, along with more than two dozen discrete, specific actions and associated outcomes and illustrative outputs that we detailed in the plan,” said Halimah Najieb-Locke, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial base resilience. 

An unclassified overview of the implementation plan is slated for publication in February with the full classified version to follow in March, Najieb-Locke said.

Officials said the strategy is the product of months of engagement from stakeholders from across industry and government, which began at the direction of Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks in March 2023. 

The document also reflects President Joe Biden’s broader efforts to shore up domestic manufacturing and critical supply chains in the U.S. 

“The department’s most senior leaders directed and guided development of this first ever NDIS, a part of the effort to reenergize U.S. manufacturing and build the kind of modernized defense industrial ecosystem we need to enable our national defense strategy and to meet the global challenges our nation and our allies will confront,” Taylor-Kale said.  

“We can no longer afford to wait,” she said. “The time for action has come, and we are starting it with this strategy.”

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