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Industrial Mobilization—Assessing Surge Capabilities, Wartime Risk, and System Brittleness

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With the shift of US strategic focus to great power competition, interest in industrial mobilization for a long duration, high-intensity conflict has returned. However, the highly consolidated and fragile US defense industrial base is not designed to meet this challenge.

To gain insight into the ability of the defense industrial base to meet the demands of great power conflict, the project analyzed the time needed to replace weapon systems' inventory at peacetime and surge production rates. The project found that to replace MDAP inventories at surge production rates would take an average of 8.7 years. Some investment categories are at more risk than others, with Navy shipbuilding being uniquely challenged. Programs with analogs in the civilian economy appear to have faster replacement rates than military unique systems. Finally, the industrial base has become more brittle over time in that that it would take longer to replace inventories at FY 2020 production rates than at FY 1999 production rates.

These findings indicate that existing surge capacities for major defense acquisition programs fall short of what will be needed for a long duration great power conflict. More research is needed to provide decision-makers with options to cope with this shortfall.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2020

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  • The Naval Engineers Journal is the peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE). ASNE is the leading professional engineering society for engineers, scientists and allied professionals who conceive, design, develop, test, construct, outfit, operate and maintain complex naval and maritime ships, submarines and aircraft and their associated systems and subsystems.
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