WASHINGTON — The US will look toward more industrial cooperation with Norwegian defense firms in the future, according to the Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, speaking at the May 19 NADIC Norwegian-American Defense Conference in Washington, said international cooperation on defense programs will likely continue as the two nations come to strengthen ties between each other’s industrial bases.
“I hope to expand our cooperation in a wide variety of programs,” Work said. “We’ve had a long collaboration in [anti-submarine warfare] for example, and our P-3 communities are very, very close, our submarine communities are very, very close. I would expect that to occur in the future.”
Øystein Bø, Norway’s deputy defense minister, praised the ability of his nation to work with the Pentagon, comparing it to the challenge that Norwegian firms have found closer to home.
“What we have been saying to our European friends is we believe we have a small but very capable industry which can deliver the right tech and very high end, and it’s actually proven easier to get into the US market than to get into the big countries in the European market,” he said.
Both men highlighted the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Naval Strike Missile, which Work called “an extraordinarily capably missile, developed by the Norwegians, which the Navy is taking an extremely hard look at.”
Work also seemed to encourage his counterpart to invest in the type of artificial intelligence capabilities that will be part of the Pentagon’s “Third Offset” strategy. That strategy, championed by Work, is focused on developing automation to help support the war fighter.
“This is really about partnerships, from my perspective,” Work said, including “our partnerships with our defense industrial bases to pursue innovative innovations like the Third Offset Strategy, and our growing partnership with the commercial industry.”
But after the two men finished speaking, a panel of US acquisition experts outlined the challenges facing any foreign nation who wants to work with the US on defense programs, whether as joint producers of technology or simply as commercial suppliers.
All the panelists agreed that the Pentagon needs to be more open to buying from and working with the industrial base of partner nations, with William Greenwalt, a professional staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, calling international collaboration “absolutely necessary.”
“Our allies have essentially the same problem we’re facing — declining or limited defense resources and rising threats, and access to a globalized commercial technological base that is driving technology. Why wouldn’t we want to go and see and take advantage of someone else who solved [a problem]?,” Greenwalt asked. “Whoever has the best ideas, whether it’s commercial, international or our global partners, whomever it is, we should be bringing that in.”
The first issue facing global firms is protectionist policies from the US, including a propensity by Congress to close off competition from non-US firms, said Mackeznie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute. She pointed to a recent example where members of the House pushed through an amendment that would force shoes for new recruits to be produced in the US.
Ben FitzGerald, a former owner of an Australian company that worked with the Pentagon and is now part of the Center for a New American Security, said Pentagon bureaucracy creates another hurdle.
“If you’re coming from abroad, you also think, ‘They just don’t like us,’ ” he said. “It’s an equal-opportunity hate organization [among other countries]. It’s just hard to do business with the [Defense] Department.”
And, FitzGerald warned, the institutional patterns may hold into the future.
“My concern is we’re already at the point where we need to be collaborating that way, but we have enough inertia that we don’t feel we need to,” he said.