Nearly 300 people converged on Washington, DC last Thursday for the G’Day USA Dialogue on Defence Industries. In light of the newly-announced goal of growing Australia's defence industry into a top ten global defence exporter by 2028, no doubt the Australian government was content with the interest.
Rounding out attendee numbers roughly double that of last year were a dozen Australian companies seeing a growth market opportunity in the United States for their cyber products and services, and taking part in the Austrade/AustCyber Cyber Security Mission. Last year a smaller delegation visited the US west coast only – the east coast addition being testament to the increasing level of commercial and government interest in cybersecurity in both Australia and the United States.
In an era of ‘buy American, hire American’ it remains to be seen what Australia's inclusion in the definition of the US National Technology Industrial Base (NTIB) will translate to, and to what extent we'll see flow through to supply chain access for Australian companies. However, the discussion at the dialogue was very much centred on the importance of our longstanding status as trusted and valued allies.
Following an Executive Order in July 2017 for Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States, the US government has been taking a systematic approach to reviewing its industrial base. The review is not publicly available as yet, but Eric Chewning from the US Department of Defense stated the options to address gaps and challenges include working with allies along with policy and investment levers.
A number of ‘pathfinder’ efforts are underway to test out how Australian capability – and that of the other nations included in the statutory definition – can be added to the US NTIB. These projects, which reportedly cover cybersecurity, controlled goods, and industrial and investment security, were held up as the first wave in determining how best to work together. The challenge here – as in many things to do with defence procurement – is that by the time the processes and paperwork are worked through, the technology (and the global threats) may have moved on.
Despite the presence of Australian cyber security companies in the trade mission, cyber security was one area that seemed notably absent from many of the panel discussions and addresses.
With the elevation of US Cyber Command to the status of a Unified Combatant Command in late 2017, along with the convergence of the world’s cyber security community at the RSA Conference 2018 in San Francisco this week (of which there are 50,000 attendees), to not have a significant discussion about cyber security in the context of defence industry signified an east and west coast miles apart in more than distance.