An American Vital Interest: Preserving the Nuclear Enterprise Supplier Base
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
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The current flexible U.S. nuclear arsenal supporting the national security strategy and defense posture requires the maintenance of a capable nuclear enterprise. However, the nuclear enterprises supplier base has eroded over time creating a sense of urgency to determine how to sustain a capable nuclear enterprise. President Obama pledged that the U.S. will maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear weapons arsenal while pursuing his goal of a world without nuclear weapons, a long-term path to zero. This paper argues that if the reliable supplier base is not properly preserved, the U.S. may be forced to prematurely go down the path to zero or retain lower than optimal stockpile levels because of the lack of manufacturing and acquisition capabilities. This paper intends to identify the current supplier base challenges, explore and examine available options, conduct studies of other industries on their approaches in managing eroding supplier bases, and provide recommendations for preserving the nuclear enterprises supplier base. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, if not forced to establish capabilities in-house or accept new parttechnology due to obsolescence, the paper recommends that the government opt to choose the widely used practice by other industries provide incentives to suppliers to foster a positive customer-supplier relationship for preserving the supplier base and sustaining a healthy nuclear enterprise.