National Defense Industrial Strategy to Lay Foundation for ‘Integrated Deterrence’ 

Industrial Base Pivotal to Maintaining Strategic Military Advantage 

The strength of America’s defense industrial base propelled the United States and its Allies to victory through much of the 20th century. Then after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the U.S. became the sole world power and made changes to the acquisition process that favored perceived efficiency, over military effectiveness. In the decades since, the U.S. defense industrial base experienced offshoring and atrophy that has enabled potential adversaries to develop their own space-based capabilities, while simultaneously capturing key elements of the Department of Defense (DOD) supply chain. In response, the DOD has set out a new National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS) to rejuvenate the defense industrial base and maintain its strategic military advantage.  

“The last thing we want is war with Russia and China,” said General (Ret.) John E. Hyten, senior principal advisor at Elara Nova: The Space Consultancy. “We have to effectively deter them so that every time they make a move, we can quickly counter to maintain strategic advantage. But we need a defense industrial base that is fast enough to produce those counter moves.” 

The NDIS lays out four strategic priorities: resilient supply chains, workforce readiness, flexible acquisition and economic deterrence.  

Recapturing Supply Chain Resiliency

The first strategic priority, developing resilient supply chains, aims to bring back segments of the supply chain that have been offshored to countries outside the United States over the past few decades, including to those with goals that counter U.S. interests.   

“We offshored critical elements of our supply chain, even to Russia and China, because they were no longer considered adversaries,” said General Hyten, the former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “That created vulnerability, so we must re-establish those supply chain elements onshore or with our Allies and create multiple suppliers of critical materials and minerals, because we can no longer be dependent on a single source.” 

A key feature of the space industrial base is the growth of capability and capacity within a highly-capitalized commercial space economy.  

“We have to expand the defense industrial base into sources of innovative and emerging technologies,” General Hyten said. “There are amazing companies in places like Silicon Valley, Seattle, Cambridge, Austin, even Washington, D.C., that can have huge national security impacts. We must leverage them.” 

Understanding the Commercial Space Economy

But to leverage the strengths of innovative commercial partners effectively, the DOD must first understand their business models as well as its own, respective role in the commercial marketplace. 

“A commercial company makes money from the commercial market, it is not created solely for the defense business,” General Hyten said. “A commercial company that succeeds in America has already achieved a market share that makes them profitable. Therefore, the government should be able to buy a commercial product that meets its needs.” 

This new understanding is already being realized in today’s commercial launch market. While having multiple launch providers at the military’s disposal creates resilience in national security launch, the military has had to re-define its role in the launch process.  

“The national security sector is now a minority part of the commercial launch business,” General Hyten said. “We can’t lock down a launchpad like before, and this is a fundamental change to the national security launch process. If we’re not ready to launch when scheduled, then the next customer is launching and our next available rocket may not be the same rocket. So now our satellites have to be vertically and horizontally integrated.”  

Revitalizing an Engineering and Trades Workforce

The second strategic priority of the NDIS applies to workforce readiness, which will be particularly prevalent for both legacy and emerging commercial space companies.  

“The space workforce isn’t just engineers and physicists, but also critical trade skills like electricians, plumbers and metal workers,” General Hyten said. “If you walk into a rocket plant, the engineers are a minority population, and the trades people are in the majority. But if we don’t develop either workforce, we won’t have the future capability required to be the leading space-faring nation in the world.” 

In the present day, the Space Force’s lean and efficient workforce structure has enabled it to meet recruiting goals with top-tier talent. However, without a robust defense industrial base delivering capabilities for those Guardians, the Space Force may still be incapable of accomplishing its mission.  

 “If the defense industrial base fails, the Space Force fails,” General Hyten said. “We have to make sure that the rest of the space enterprise has the same level of workforce readiness as the Space Force. Our commercial space partners need to meet their recruiting goals, too, because we’re all in the same industry.”   

Leveraging Flexible Acquisition Strategies

A ready workforce will enable the DOD, and the Space Force, to acquire necessary capabilities for the Joint Fight. But without the third strategic priority listed in the NDIS – flexible acquisition – the DOD will not be able to employ new and innovative capabilities in time to maintain its strategic advantage.  

While the voluminous Federal Acquisition Regulations provide for wide flexibility, acquisition professionals are often taught to prioritize one way through the process – seeking waivers to bypass certain requirements – which can in turn tie their hands, slow down programs and elevate risk decisions only to the highest levels of the government.   

But for General Hyten, flexible acquisition is about empowering acquisition professionals to take risks, while still holding them accountable.  

“Accountability means if they fail, they get fired,” General Hyten said. “There’s no incentive to go fast or take risks when you have an acquisition process where program managers, directors and program executive officers are not held responsible. We have to empower them to take risks and try things that are fundamentally different.” 

Taking more risks, however, also means more failures along the way. But a “fail-fast” approach has proven successful in the past.   

“When we empower a program director to go fast and take risks in space, we will have to accept a higher probability of failure,” General Hyten said. “But one of my favorite paintings in the Pentagon is Discoverer 13, the first successful Corona spy satellite. Discoverers 1 through 12 were all failures, but they were 12 failures in 18 months. That’s a whole lot better than never making a mistake or shutting down to investigate a failure for two years, every time one occurs.” 

An Economic Element to Integrated Deterrence

The fourth and final strategic priority of economic deterrence demonstrates the need to return to a historical strength of the United States: it’s industrial base. 

“Economic deterrence means the ability to employ an economic cost or deny an economic benefit to an adversary,” said General Hyten. “With regard to both Russia and China, economic deterrence can be powerful. But if it’s not accompanied by all the other elements of our nation to create an integrated deterrence, it’s not going to be fully effective.” 

Understanding that economic deterrence is just one component to the greater objective of “integrated deterrence,” aligns with the key message emphasized by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who has called for all deterrence structures to coalesce together.  

“By itself, economic deterrence is useless,” General Hyten said.  “Everybody likes to divide deterrence into economic, military, information or diplomatic, but the only way deterrence works is if they’re all integrated effectively. That’s why Secretary Austin – during his first year in office in 2021 – talked about the need for integrated deterrence, because all those elements must be integrated to be effective against a peer adversary.” 

Achieving Integrated Deterrence Across Government Agencies

A posture of integrated deterrence from the U.S. will be critical to maintaining peace both in space and across other military domains.  

“The Space Force is responsible for delivering Guardians with capabilities to create a space domain that is integrated with all the other domains,” General Hyten said. “Every day that China, Russia, North Korea and Iran wakes up and says, ‘Not today, because the United States is ready,’ peace exists and the world is a better place. That’s deterrence.” 

Furthermore, integrating space-based capabilities at Combatant Commands across the DOD will enable each Command to be effective in achieving deterrence in their respective domains.  

“The Space Force organizes, trains and equips forces for Combatant Commanders, who execute the deterrence mission,” General Hyten said.  “The job of General Stephen Whiting, the Commander of U.S. Space Command, is to create a powerful structure that can defend our on-orbit capabilities and challenge our adversaries, so they are deterred in space. But he can’t do that alone.” 

That’s why Combatant Commanders like General Whiting are calling for greater investment and collaboration not only across Combatant Commands, but other government agencies, as well. 

“General Whiting has to work with PACOM for China, EUCOM for Russia and STRATCOM for nuclear,” General Hyten said. “He also has to work with the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Commerce, the White House and other government agencies to create this integrated deterrence structure.” 

Implementation Critical to Strategic Military Advantage

The NDIS, however, is a policy that still requires implementation. As such, the document includes metrics to measure progress against each of the strategic priorities.  

“The National Defense Industrial Strategy won’t do anything to address the threat, only implementation will do that,” General Hyten said. “Policy documents like the NDIS enable solutions to problems. It tells us what to do, but we still have to do it and adjust as we learn.” 

Therefore, strategic military advantage against the peer threat can be secured with successful implementation of the four NDIS strategic priorities. 

“Implementing the strategy means you have an effective supply chain and a flexible acquisition policy,” General Hyten said. “It means having the ability to adopt new capabilities faster by taking advantage of commercial innovation. When that happens, our military capabilities can stay ahead of the adversary.” 

Now, after its first year as a leading space consultancy, Elara Nova is aligned with the purpose of the NDIS to revitalize the defense industrial base. 

“Our greatest advantage is the people serving in the military, but they can only do their job if we give them the capabilities from the defense industrial base,” General Hyten said. “Elara Nova provides unique expertise to the whole space enterprise, whose collective success means we will deliver capabilities to the Space Force and the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Guardians that depend on them to deter future conflict. If deterrence fails, then to win.” 

Elara Nova is a global consultancy and professional services firm focused on helping businesses and government agencies maximize the strategic advantages of the space domain. Learn more at