Pentagon Pushes Engagement with Industry

NGAUS Washington Report
March 20, 2018

The deputy defense secretary is encouraging military members to engage with the defense industry, saying it helps the makers of military weapons and other equipment know what war fighters need.

Patrick Shanahan released a memorandum earlier this month to a variety of Defense Department agencies and senior officials, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, service secretaries, commanders of combatant commands and others.

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“Conducting effective, responsible, and efficient procurement of supplies and services while properly managing the resultant contracts required Department personnel to engage in early, frequent, and clear communications with suppliers,” he wrote. “As the [National Defense Strategy] makes clear, dialogue helps industry make informed investment and business decisions necessary to meet near-and long-term requirements of the Department.”

Shanahan’s memo is on the mark, the NGAUS president says.

“Much of the innovation our warfighters need to stay technologically ahead of our adversaries comes from private industry,” said retired Brig. Gen. Roy Robinson. “They are our partners in modernization, which makes regular dialogue critical. I applaud the deputy defense secretary for reinforcing this.”

Shanahan noted that ethics guidelines and procurement rules and laws must be followed, but they should not “cause officials to be reluctant to engage in exchanges with industry.” Those rules do not restrict all meetings with industry officials.

Events sponsored by industry associations, for example, Shanahan wrote, “provide opportunities to efficiently, effectively, and ethically connect the DoD with leaders from across a particular industry or segment.”

The memo, dated March 2, included the relevant laws and “DoD Myth-busters on Communications with Industry,” which explain some misunderstandings regarding how military members can interact with industry representatives.

“Leaders must talk with personnel about the importance of having dialogue with industry and help them understand the parameters for doing so,” Shanahan wrote.