WASHINGTON — A former Pentagon acquisitions official has recommended to Congress a series of legal and regulatory changes to ease defense-industrial cooperation between America and its closest allies, including a stronger waiver for U.S. defense-export controls.
Bill Greenwalt, a former Senate Armed Services Committee staffer, deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial policy and federal acquisition policy director at Lockheed Martin, made the recommendations in a new study on America’s technology-industrial base, while stressing that the country could fall behind China without fast action.
The Atlantic Council is due to release the 64-page study on April 23, with hopes it will make waves on Capitol Hill. With Greenwalt’s involvement, annual iterations of the National Defense Authorization Act have addressed the issue of defense-industrial cooperation with allies, and his study offers sample legislative language to advance that process through a future NDAA.
U.S. law defines the national technology and industrial base, or NTIB, as the industrial bases of America’s closest historical allies, Australia, the United Kingdom (since 2016) and Canada (since 1994, when the NTIB was established). But the job’s not done, Greenwalt writes.
The study warns that “a go-it-alone strategy will eventual leave the United States to compete on its own against a civilly-military integrated China, as allies and the commercial marketplace hold back better technology out of fear of getting entangled in the US export-control system.”
A key recommendation is to an expand an exemption for the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) regime from Canada to other NTIB countries, either by executive action or an act of Congress.
Greenwalt envisions a “Five Eyes Defense Free Trade Zone” — a “trusted space” for the sharing of innovation, technology and investment between NTIB allies akin to the Five Eyes arrangement for intelligence.
“Broad and robust changes will be necessary to modernize technology-transfer laws, regulations, policies, and practices to establish the integrated defense-industrial base that US law calls for, to ensure the NTIB nations can work together — as they did to meet existential threats during World War II and in the first decades of the Cold War,” the study reads. “They now need to respond to the far more complex threats they collectively face.”
In 2017, President Donald Trump ordered a whole-of-government assessment of U.S. manufacturing capacity, including the defense-industrial base. The study found a number of challenges.
The Trump administration has since made increasing American arms sales abroad a key part of its national security and economic strategies; that coincided with a major reform package of the Foreign Military Sales process, with the explicit goal of making it easier for friendly nations to procure American military goods.
That policy change, known as the Conventional Arms Transfer policy, includes loosening ITAR restrictions on exports and emphasizing the easier Direct Commercial Sales process.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.