The United States’ defence industrial base is failing to draw upon one of Washington’s greatest strengths: its global network of trusted allies.

A new report, released today by the United States Studies Centre, argues that the National Technology and Industrial Base (NTIB) – a congressionally-mandated multilateral framework which includes Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada  – has only managed to facilitate some limited bilateral cooperation between members, rather than the goal of fostering a 'defence free-trade area'.

Report author Brendan Thomas-Noone says the strategic challenges facing Australia and the United States in the Indo-Pacific today, along with the global diffusion of technological and industrial power, present a renewed case for allies to seek innovative ways to aggregate their collective efforts and capabilities.

"The expansion of the NTIB to include Australia and the United Kingdom has laid the groundwork for larger reform and integration with allies," Thomas-Noone said. 

"While allies and officials within the United States can continue to press for further reform, it will ultimately require political actors in Congress and Washington willing to push for a transformation of the system more adapted to strategic competition.

"Breaking down barriers and incentivising trusted allies with R&D, knowledge and resources to continue working with the US should be a critical priority."

Key points

  • The US defence export control regime is one of the biggest barriers to NTIB integration. Specifically, bureaucratic fragmentation, its failure to treat trusted allies differently from other partners and its leaders’ reluctance to attempt politically costly reform are significant barriers to progress.
  • Canberra’s ability to maintain its own competitive military advantage and to serve as an effective ally of the United States in the Indo-Pacific is threatened by real and growing opportunity costs in an age of rapid strategic and technological change that Australia and Australian industry face as a result of slow NTIB implementation.
  • Australian leaders should elevate NTIB progress to the political level and accelerate efforts to make a strategic case in Washington as to why extensive and ambitious implementation of NTIB’s original vision is urgently needed.

View report

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