March 07, 2018

Lessons for the Navy from SpaceX and the Commercial Sector

By Jerry Hendrix

The United States Navy has a goal of increasing its fleet from its current inventory of 280 ships to 355, but its recently released 30-year shipbuilding plan does not reach that goal until the 2050s. This is despite the fact that the recently released national-security strategy publicly recognizes that the United States is now in a great-power competition with China and Russia. In addition, China’s investments in its own navy will enable it to surpass the U.S. Navy in size within the next decade; China may supplant the United States as the most influential nation on the global scene shortly after that. If the United States is to maintain its role as the key player, it will have to make changes in the way it approaches building and maintaining instruments of national power. Fortunately, there are some good examples of how to do this.

Just over a decade ago, the U.S. government engaged in a public-private partnership with Elon Musk’s fledgling space-launch company, SpaceX, to create a hybrid company that paired private capital with government funds. In the beginning, with the Space Shuttle program approaching its end, the partnership aimed to find an affordable method for launching resupply missions to the International Space Station. As the program matured, however, it became something much greater: a commercial business that overcame massive infrastructure costs to become a core part of the nation’s launch enterprise, all within the space of a decade.

Read the full article in National Review.