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National Defense Industrial Strategy Released

In mid-January, the Pentagon released America’s first National Defense Industrial Strategy ( to remedy growing concerns about the “more robust, resilient, and dynamic industrial ecosystem” the Dept. of Defense says it needs to ensure global defense and security over the coming five years of challenge in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Arctic, and the South Pacific. The 65-page NDIS offers a strategic vision and path along four priorities: resilient supply chains, workforce readiness, flexible acquisition, and economic deterrence. With new DoD Industrial Policy leadership from Dr. Laura Taylor-Kale, a top-level Pentagon staff queried over 100 companies, trade associations and venture investors in late 2023 to secure their counsel in proposing an industrial modernization pathway. Acknowledging that workforce and workforce capability are the defense industry’s principal challenge, NDIS cites five actions needed to achieve workforce readiness:

  • Prepare workforce for future technological innovation
  • Continue targeting defense-critical skill sets in manufacturing and STEM
  • Increase access to apprenticeship and internship programs
  • Destigmatize industrial careers
  • Expand recruitment of non-traditional communities

Hampton Roads, as the nation’s maritime production and modernization hub, will figure prominently in NDIS implementation – the subject of a classified NDIS 2.0 release expected in February. Current work of the Virginia Digital Maritime Center, the region’s Workforce Council, Virginia Ship Repair Association, and maritime firms large and small, may be measured against NDIS 2.0 metrics during 2024’s second quarter. But, alignment with NDIS workforce readiness actions is already underway. Further, the National Academies of Science & Engineering turned up the heat on US industrial base transformation, just prior to the NDIS release, with its 100-page Options for a National Plan for Smart Manufacturing (Home | National Academies), including a tough-minded lengthy chapter on “The State of Smart Manufacturing Workforce and Education – Strategies to Address Challenges.”