Eric Fanning, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association and a previous Wash100 Award winner, highlighted the key role of government investment in ensuring the security of the U.S. critical mineral supply chain amid competition with China during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the state of the U.S. defense industrial base Wednesday.
“When you look at it from the lens of national security, it’s important for government and industry to work together and figure out what each needs to do. In this particular case, investment on the part of government to get that market and capability started so that the industry side then has a source it can turn to would be critically important because we’ve lost that capability,” Fanning told lawmakers.
He discussed how public-private partnerships could help augment the industry’s approach to addressing workforce challenges and Congress’ tendency to pass more continuing resolutions than on-time appropriations measures and its impact on the DIB.
Fanning, former secretary of the U.S. Army, told lawmakers that inflation and inconsistency push small businesses to exit the industrial base and that consolidation should not be blamed for the declining number of vendors doing business with the Department of Defense.
He noted that consolidation could enable large contractors to grow while providing small enterprises with access to capital, expertise, processes and workforce.
“I think the real thing to look at in the DIB is why is it so hard for new entrants to break in. The Department has always been difficult to work with for obvious and important reasons, but I think over time it’s becoming increasingly difficult,” Fanning said.
Fanning stated that the foreign military sales process must reflect a sense of urgency.
“There are a number of things we have to do. We have to streamline the process and change the presumption that’s built into the process from the start to the finish. It’s really going to take dedicated senior leader attention to make sure this moves through the process,” he told lawmakers.