Democracy’s Arsenal: Creating a Twenty-First-Century Defense Industry

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democracy-arsenal-bookAuthor(s): Jacques S. Gansler

Publisher:  Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press

Copyright Date: 2011

ISBN: 978-0262072991

Hard/Softcover: Hardcover, 432 pages

Reviewed by: Professor Steven A. Jones, Defense Systems Management College, Defense Acquisition University


Winston Churchill once said “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else.” When it comes to our nation’s defense acquisition system, you would think Winston Churchill’s quote is spot on. Jacques Gansler describes in his book one more transformation needed in government and industry to achieve a new, more effective system of national defense. The author contends that this transformation is required if this country intends to meet all of the challenges to national security the new century brings. As suggested by the title, Creating a Twenty-First-Century Defense Industry, Gansler clearly outlines the changes he sees as essential in industry and the Department of Defense (DoD) business practices. He makes a compelling case for globalization of defense business and greatly reduced competition.

This is a well-researched and engaging book. Drawing upon his decade of experience in industry, government, and academia, Gansler argues that the old model of ever-increasing defense expenditures on largely outmoded weapons systems must be replaced by a strategy that combines a healthy economy, effective international relations, and a strong (but affordable) national security posture. The author describes many significant policy decisions made by the DoD over the last 30 years. He provides a significant bibliography to support policy decisions in the past and provides rationale for why these policies should change in the future. His extensive analysis provides the reader with detailed pros and cons of each hypothesis made and clearly articulates his conclusions.

One of the many “Globalization Thrusts” Gansler suggests is to increase purchases from foreign sources and to codevelop more weapons systems. He refutes those that claim this approach increases U.S. Forces’ vulnerability and contends globalization brings greater efficiency and innovation. He provides specific recommended changes in legislation to recognize this global defense market; he also claims this approach would establish a more appropriate, risk-based set of considerations associated with the vulnerability of U.S. Forces.

This book is of particular importance in today’s defense acquisition community as we approach a significant transition. It provides the reader with a vast knowledge of studies performed by DoD and Congress that led to policy decisions and legislative actions in the past. Having this clear lens of hindsight is important to any decision maker in the DoD. This is especially important to Executive Coaches, providing a wealth of knowledge in the cache of tools available to coaches and their clients.

This book may spark a new twist to acquisition reform. Is it possible Winston Churchill is right? Have we tried everything else?

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The Defense Acquisition Professional Reading List is intended to enrich the knowledge and understanding of the civilian, military, contractor, and industrial workforce who participate in the entire defense acquisition enterprise. These book reviews/recommendations are designed to complement the education and training that are vital to developing the essential competencies and skills required of the Defense Acquisition Workforce. Each issue of the Defense Acquisition Research Journal (ARJ) will contain one or more reviews of suggested books, with more available on the Defense ARJ Web site.

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