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AFEI Chairman's Message

Next Generation Manufacturing Technologies - Will the US be a player?

May 2003 - The continued role of the US as a world leader relies heavily on the capabilities of the defense industrial base and the effective use of advanced technology to maintain and accelerate productivity and performance growth. However, the percentage of R&D investment from DoD and defense industry in manufacturing science and technology has steadily declined. In addition, defense industrial leaders have migrated to a role of final assembly, with increased reliance on offshore suppliers. This is leading to a loss of technical leadership in manufacturing knowledge, skills, and capabilities.

As more and more manufacturing capability moves offshore, specifically to the Pacific Rim, the US industrial base is weakened. Also, a new threat to the manufacturing base is emerging; that is, the migration of important manufacturing research and development to other countries. Some foreign governments are starting to mandate that companies locate their R&D efforts in their country as a requirement to establish a manufacturing operation. If this threat materializes in a substantial way, we could be looking at the “beginning of the end” of manufacturing in the United States.

It is imperative that the transformation of the defense industrial base begins and proceeds hand-in-hand with the DoD. The US needs to take the offense and undertake a major research agenda to advance important DoD goals, such as accelerating the development of new industries; reducing the cost of new military and space systems; and improving the efficiency and reliability of the national manufacturing infrastructure. Absent a significant national initiative to address our next generation manufacturing technologies, the United States will not be a player in the future.

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