USIBC virtual event on ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’
US-based military equipment industry leader, Dr Vivek Lall has opined that the countries in the Indo-Pacific — to protect their economies, investment and vast sea-growing traffic — will continue infusing technology and military platforms. He suggested a convergence of defence industrial base of the US and its allies for sustaining a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’.
“The Indo-Pacific region will continue to lead by most macroeconomic indicators, such as trade flows, net investment flows, and real GDP growth, which will all contribute to Human Development and sustaining the post-pandemic recovery,” said Dr Lall, who is Chief Executive, General Atomics Global Corporation.
Dr Lall, along with US Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord was part of a virtual ‘India Ideas Summit’ organized by the US India Business Council (USIBC). He was speaking late on Tuesday, July 21, India time (GMT +5:30). He and Lord were at a discussion on ‘India, Multilateralism, and a Free and Open Indo-Pacific’.
Offering a perspective on the state of the defense industry in the context of the challenging and transforming global security environment, he said “it was encouraging to see that the US Government and our partner and allied nations across the Indo-Pacific region recognize the persistent and growing threats”. They continue to make investments in technology development, induction of new platforms, and a commitment to sustainment to ensure our collective readiness.
“Regardless of when, whether, and to what extent supply chains shift or rebalance in the years ahead, Asia will remain at the heart of it all,” he said .
Nearly two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments transit across the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Eight of the 10 busiest container ports are in the region. 30 percent of all global trade transits the South China Sea, including $1.2 Trillion annually bound for the United States, Dr Lall pointed out.
Deliver greater capability and do it quickly
Expressing that there was much to look forward to there are some important decisions to make as the industry charts its course. The choices we make now will be strong determinants of our post-pandemic recovery. And we have a meaningful role as an industry in delivering greater capability, more affordably, and more quickly than ever before.
So, the real question isn’t how can we afford to safeguard and secure this region? The question should be, how can we afford NOT to? And we see that countries across the region understand what is at stake and are responding accordingly, from Japan to Korea to Taiwan to Australia and of course, India, he pointed out..
Appreciating the value of good stable governance and strong, democratic, values-based institutions in order to serve the public and develop national economies, Dr Lall said “Those goals are built upon a foundation of security”. A strong and vibrant state, with an economy that has the necessary resources for bold investments in education and healthcare, requires the appropriate tools to maintain its internal security and its national security.
Providing the tools for that security is the business of the Defence industry with a vast array of products and solutions and technological innovation that businesses, large and small, across the globe, bring forth to our Governments in service of national security.
There is an argument about defense spending globally will necessarily be subject to downward pressure because government finances are constrained due to the pandemic. It is true, he said, that public finances are constrained, but let’s not submit to a choice between security spending and other forms of public spending. Budgets reflect a country’s aspirational values while also acknowledging its more immediate needs.
Convergence needed to secure Indo-Pacific
Achieving this in future and safeguarding a free and open Indo-Pacific will require an unprecedented convergence of the collective defense industrial base of the United States and our partners and allies. Over the last many years, we see a clear trend of accelerating technological innovation across the globe. We now face a compressed timeline towards obsolescence and in order to maintain our edge, our own development timelines are adapting. There is now a greater emphasis on rapid prototyping and delivering incremental capability more quickly to the warfighter. The concept is much like the software industry has done for years for the benefit of its end users.
The industry is rapidly adapting to meet the challenge. International cooperation, between governments and industry, spanning the entire acquisition lifecycle will become even more essential for the health of our collective defence industrial base.
Be ready to release technology
Lall made significant point on the improving and upgrading specific capabilities with certain partners and allies.
This can be done in a way that balances the need to protect some sensitive technology, but sharing other technologies while they remain relevant or before they become obsolete. Ideally we could do this before such technology is offered to our partners by a competitor country, which then crowds-out US equipment or precludes US interoperability.
He argued for an export control/technology release philosophy that is more attuned to the fast-evolving market trends and fully considers the availability of similar products in the global marketplace. He mentioned recent statements from Ellen Lord and others, signaling a desire to open the export of military technologies within the next six months, as an important step towards implementing the 2018 Conventional Arms Transfer policy.