The U.S. military says it needs next-generation ships and aircraft that are ready to compete against rivals such as China and Russia, but they’re having to fend off a U.S. defense industry with its own agenda and the ear of influential congressional leaders.
On Monday, The Navy‘s top admiral said the defense industry should stop pushing lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to continue funding weapon systems the Pentagon doesn’t want.
“Although it’s in the industry’s best interest, … building the ships that you want to build, lagging on repairs to ships and to submarines, lobbying Congress to buy aircraft that we don’t need — it’s not helpful,” Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, told the Navy League’s 2021 Sea Air Space convention. His comments were reported in the online military news website Defense One.
The admiral said the industry must be more “agile” as the Department of Defense pivots to new technologies and platforms.
“It’s not the ‘90’s anymore as we have … to really try to punctuate the sense of urgency that we feel every day against China, to move the needle in a bureaucracy that’s really not designed to move very fast,” Adm. Gilday said.
For instance, the Navy reduced its purchases of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers but Bath Iron Works in Maine, one of only two U.S. shipyards that builds the destroyer class, immediately turned to Capitol Hill to warn it may have to lay off employees if that happens.
Last month, the Air Force said it was pausing plans to establish a “Center of Excellence” for close air support and rescue missions at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona after Congress wouldn’t sign off on the service’s plan to retire 42 A-10 Thunderbolt II fighters to pay for it.
“The funds made available from retiring these older A-10s would create the fiscal and manpower flexibility required to design and field the future force needed to meet combatant commander requirements,” Air Force officials said in a statement.
Part of the Navy‘s dilemma seems to be a messaging problem. The Navy should include more industry executives and lawmakers in its wargames and strategy sessions to give them a better idea of how the nation’s current arsenal stands up against global threats, Adm. Gilday said.
“About a year ago, the Navy spent a day with industry leaders, showing them the results of some of our wargaming,” he said, according to Defense One. “I think that was really, really instructive. We need to do that again.”