A central principle of the emergent Obama Doctrine appears to be limiting the role of the United States. In the current Libyan campaign the President sought to downplay his personal role, letting French President Nicolas Sarkozy take center stage. French and British jets conducted the coalition’s initial air strikes. U.S. sources are firm that command of the operation will soon transition to a European country.
If the Obama Doctrine is to take firm hold on U.S. policy shouldn’t it also be applied in this country’s defense acquisition strategy? Unfortunately, a series of recent procurement decisions in this country demonstrate the challenge of more closely integrating the U.S. and international defense industrial bases. Most recently there was the decision to award the contract for a new aerial refueling tanker to Boeing. In 2009, the Pentagon cancelled the contract to build a new presidential helicopter in which the platform was provided by AgustaWestland. The only successful foreign competitor in aircraft programs was the EADS win of the Army’s UG-72 Lakota light utility helicopter.
An exception to this trend is the Joint Strike Fighter’s International Participation Program. Eight allied nations invested billions on the program and each country has meaningful participation in the development and production of the aircraft.
Foreign companies, particularly European-based firms with U.S. subsidiaries such as BAE Systems, Cobham, Finmeccanica and Thales provide a range of platforms, systems and technologies. The challenge that remains is still to see foreign platforms gain a larger share of the U.S. defense market.
There are a series of defense competitions coming up, notably for an Air Force utility helicopter and for a presidential helicopter, for which there are extremely viable foreign candidates. Hopefully, these competitions will provide an opportunity for the Pentagon to expand further the Obama Doctrine on the area of defense procurement.
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