April 08, 2021

The Pentagon must act now to address vulnerability in its enterprise

By Tara Murphy Dougherty and Billy Fabian

Learning and adaptation create successful military organizations. From the Revolutionary War through Operation Inherent Resolve, U.S. armed forces have demonstrated a remarkable ability to absorb and adapt to combat’s harsh lessons. Peacetime adaptation and innovation have proved more difficult and infrequent, but it is necessary to meet the challenges that China and Russia pose to U.S. security. To achieve the “urgent change at significant scale,” called for by the 2018 National Defense Strategy, the Department of Defense must learn lessons from peacetime experiences and adapt quickly.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not combat, but it has stress-tested the DoD and the broader defense enterprise. It has degraded military readiness; disrupted modernization; and drawn U.S. armed forces into roles, such as vaccine distribution, beyond their core missions. This stress test exposed fragility in the defense enterprise to shocks like natural disasters and economic collapse. The DoD must heed the pandemic’s lessons about systemic vulnerability and, as it has during our nation’s wars, take action.

The Defense Department cannot wait for another stress test before addressing fragility in its enterprise; it must learn and adapt now.

By adapting now, the DoD can inoculate itself against systemic collapse before the next crisis.

The Defense Department’s spare parts ecosystem provides an illuminating example of fragility and how targeted actions can mitigate risk. Maintaining the vast array of U.S. military equipment, from rifles to warships, requires millions of spare parts, many of which have just one approved supplier.

Read the full article from Defense News.

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