Good morning. Thank you, Eric. I well remember that task force [the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism]. It was bipartisan, and came up with bipartisan agreement. And I remember we traveled, and we were on our way to Pakistan.
We landed I forget where, at some point on our way, only to see that the hotel we were going to stay in had been blown up. So we ended up diverting—not going to Pakistan, but to Moscow.
Thank you to the entire Board of Governors of the Aerospace Industries Association for the opportunity to share some thoughts on the challenges we all face together and our role in meeting them together.
In the early days of World War II, which most of us probably don’t recall, one of Hitler’s top officials, Hermann Goring, claimed that American factories could only produce refrigerators and razor blades—not the military equipment required to defeat Nazi forces.
For many in Germany, Europe, and even here at home, that was the prevailing view of our industrial capabilities; of our workers’ technical skills; and, most of all, of the level of our resolve to ramp up our assembly lines for the purposes of our national defense.
President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t hear Goring’s statement. But he would have understood where the sentiment came from. He recognized the stakes for our security, freedom, and prosperity if that claim held true. He appreciated what would be required to meet the task ahead—what a massive war would mean for the makeup of our industries and the mindset of our people.
So it was in December 1940, a full year before Pearl Harbor, that FDR famously declared that the United States must be the “great arsenal of democracy.”
He was determined to make it “the purpose of the nation to build now with all possible speed every machine, every arsenal, every factory that we need to manufacture our defense material.” Some of which, he added, would be sent abroad to our partners; some of which would remain at home.
Today, the world’s a very different place. Technologies have changed. Weapons have evolved. Challenges, from state and non-state actors, have shifted.
In many respects, we find ourselves at an inflection point: a moment when the post-Cold War era is over and a new age of strategic competition has arrived—defined by the PRC’s intent to reshape the rules-based international order; Russia’s aggression in Ukraine; threats from Iran and North Korea; and questions about how we deal with AI and quantum, how we confront the climate crisis, how we strengthen and sustain democracy.
We inhabit a fast-changing, complex country and world. one that FDR, quite frankly, would likely not recognize. But what we knew then about industry, security, defense, and American leadership remains true today:
That our values, our global engagement, our diplomacy, our alliances, and our protection of the rule of law are paramount.
That a strategic, deep, and robust partnership between our government and our industry is an absolutely essential asset to our national defense and a critical bedrock of international security.
We must be responsive to our allies and partners seeking these materials across the globe. We must do a better job of keeping up with the demands of our time.
Simply put: our collaboration—as you just heard from our DARPA colleagues—our collaboration is foundational. With your success and effectiveness, our nation remains competitive as a defense partner and global leader. Without it, our role and our standing suffer.
So we need you to follow a similar playbook to what FDR laid out more than 80 years ago: to act with all deliberate speed; to expand production capacity and shrink production timelines. Because in doing so, you can help bolster our defense, deter future and further aggression, and ensure we emerge from this time stronger than ever before.
Coming up short in this task has clear consequences. When partners are informed of delays, they question our reliability. These delays affect their ability to meet our security needs and restock their inventories. These delays might also lead our partners to turn away from purchases of American-made equipment and turn toward others who are more willing suppliers.
This challenge is more acute and immediate today as we deliver life-saving support to Ukraine’s government and people. Arming and equipping Ukraine has been an unquestioned necessity. We know, however, that it comes with a cost: it will take some years to refill warehouses depleted over the last 15 months.
Add to this equation another set of variables: even as we dramatically ramp up the production of artillery, tanks, missile defense systems, and more, we know that this industry faces not only the effects of arming Ukraine, but the aftermath of the pandemic, and the fragility of supply chains and the people that you need to do the work, and all that means for our economy and our businesses.
At the same time, the pressure on our companies, on you, is rising.
Global military spending hit a record high last year, after increasing for the past eight years in a row. European military expenditures are at their highest levels since the end of the Cold War.
What’s more, Russia’s poor performance on the battlefield; their inferior systems; their outdated defense doctrine and systemic corruption; not to mention the impact of our sanctions—all of it has persuaded Moscow’s traditional partners to look elsewhere.
That opens a door for you and for our nation—to offer these partners a better choice. That, in turn, puts even more pressure on your shoulders to quickly answer the bell from countries in Eastern Europe and beyond searching for more reliable, accountable, and transparent defense relationships.
These facts point in one direction: rising demand isn’t an aberration. It’s the new normal. And our defense industry must move towards an accelerated manufacturing schedule to fit the realities faced by our partners worldwide.
Now, we’re not asking you to do this alone. To the contrary: at the State Department and across the Administration, we know that this must be a joint enterprise between government and industry. It must be our shared mission to shorten delivery times for critical military equipment.
That’s why our team is looking closely at what we can do to speed up our processes and streamline the rules governing the defense trade.
That effort begins with improving our Foreign Military Sales process.
As you know well, FMS is a key arms transfer mechanism and a critical tool of American foreign policy. FMS is one of the many ways we promote interoperability and strengthen our unmatched network of alliances and security partnerships globally.
Purchases of arms, equipment, and training through the FMS channel are a necessity in the face of threats in Ukraine or the Indo-Pacific or the Taiwan Strait or elsewhere. As these challenges evolve, so, too, must our FMS system.
While the vast majority — nearly 95 percent — of FMS requests are approved by the State Department within 48 hours, we are exploring how we can improve the remaining and very critical cases; how we can simplify complex policy issues; how we can coordinate with the Defense Department and other agencies to support your industry as you scale up operations.
With our FMS 2023 strategy, we are determined to advance a series of targeted reforms to reach those goals. Led by our Political-Military Bureau and Assistant Secretary Jessica Lewis, this initiative covers ten primary steps, and we’ll put the full rundown online. I’m not going to go through the ten steps right now. But for the moment, let me highlight a few examples of the changes at hand.
For instance, we’re taking a regional approach to arms transfers, so that when we adjudicate FMS cases for one country, we can anticipate similar demands for its neighbors, saving time and resources along the way.
We are prioritizing FMS cases based on the goals of our National Security Strategy, so our planning and assistance match the President’s top policy objectives.
We are promoting proactive, forward-looking uses of the Special Defense Acquisition Fund, to ensure rapid delivery of certain defense articles and services in advance of normal procurement timelines.
We are going to work directly with Congress to modernize and simplify our notification process, while maintaining full transparency with our legislative leaders.
This just scratches the surface of our FMS reforms, and of course, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. While we update our equities, the team at DOD is tackling
elements of FMS that they oversee—just as we’re asking you, in industry, to take on your own part of the effort: bolstering your production capacity.
Working hand-in-hand, with these steps and more, we will find and keep finding ways to deal with the toughest issues before us. We will keep doing our part to provide clearer, more definitive timelines for our foreign partners. We will keep collaborating with you to sustain and improve a system that is vital to the safety of communities at home and abroad.
This work comes within a larger context: the advancement of the Biden Administration’s overarching foreign policy agenda.
The broad contours of that strategy are clear:
We are revitalizing and reinvesting in our unparalleled network of allies and partners.
We are elevating human rights and democracy as key components of our international leadership, and ensuring our security assistance meets our strategic needs and upholds our fundamental ideals.
We are sustaining our economic strength at home and our competitiveness abroad, in part, by safeguarding our technological edge, optimizing our defense trade, and promoting a level playing field for American industry.
We are expanding security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and Europe, rallying broad coalitions around a positive vision for a world that is free and fair, open and prosperous, inclusive and secure.
These are the building blocks of our approach on the international stage. Yet we bear no illusions about the realities around us. We are clear-eyed about the massive threats and dangers staring us in the face—and we seek to mitigate, answer, and confront them every single day.
But we need you. We need our defense industrial base—we need your companies—to share our urgency in meeting this moment, in building and protecting the planet we seek.
None of us can do this on our own. Someone has to lead. Because our democratic principles are at stake. Our security is at stake. People’s lives are at stake. 18
attacks last night on Ukraine. 17 were repelled by defense systems that we and others around the world, helped provide.
People’s lives are at stake, and it’s up to us to protect them.
Those stakes are glaringly clear, as they were back in January, when I joined my counterparts from the Defense Department and the White House for a remarkable visit to Kyiv.
In between ten-hour, overnight train journeys back and forth, we met with President Zelenskyy and other top leaders. We met young people and civil society activists fighting for their country today and imagining what it might be tomorrow. We met journalists shining a light on the truth about Russian atrocities and telling the story of life in a war zone.
We bore witness to the very definition of courage and sacrifice, fortitude and resolve, among the thousands standing on the frontlines of a premier battle for democracy, sovereignty, human dignity, and freedom in the 21st century.
We watched them utilizing weapons made in American factories and on American assembly lines, along with contributions from allies and partners, to defend their homes, their infrastructure, their communities, their families.
In that brief visit and in those powerful images, we were reminded that—more than eight decades after FDR’s call—our nation remains, at its best, the arsenal of democracy.
Our country’s aerospace industry remains part of the backbone of the defense of liberty and human rights.
Our partnership with you remains an essential ingredient in renewing American leadership, reinforcing America’s diplomacy, and revitalizing the cause of security, safety, and freedom everywhere.
Together, let’s keep that arsenal strong and enduring. Let’s ensure that it’s always a shining light of strength for our people, our partners, and the world. Thank you.