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Defense Department Launches Initiative to Boost U.S. Industrial Workforce

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 Nov. 23, 2020

One of the most vital challenges for the U.S. defense industrial base is the deficit in domestic manufacturing and engineering talent. In order to address this problem head-on, the Defense Department recently awarded its first nine prototyping projects, valued at nearly $27 million, as part of the launch of the “National Imperative for Industrial Skills” initiative, or “the Skills Imperative.” The awards are an initial step in reigniting U.S. industrial modernization and to restoring the nation as the world’s high-tech leader.

Earlier this year, DOD’s industrial policy office issued a standing, five-year request to academia and industry for innovative prototyping proposals to address selected key segments of the industrial skills workforce development ecosystem. These initial awards will build manufacturing prestige across the nation, with awards in Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, Illinois, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. With additional awards planned for fiscal year 2021, the Skills Imperative will continue to marshal a nationwide focus to provide needed workers for the industrial base.

Led by the Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program office in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy, the Skills Imperative enables the United States to build its next generation of combat ships, submarines, aircraft, ground vehicles, missiles, and other platforms and weapon systems. This effort directly addresses the loss of vital skills in the domestic workforce — a challenge identified in the Executive Order 13806 Report titled “Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States.”

Jeffrey “Jeb” Nadaner, deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy said “a skilled workforce has been the bedrock of our economic security and when needed our national security. The next arsenal of democracy will be built by American hands and creative minds. Thousands of manufacturing jobs in our defense industrial base await Americans seeking careers with purpose and fulfillment. Whether building automobiles, aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines, the Skills Imperative invites industry allies to rally alongside the department and help Americans develop the necessary skills to be part of these production efforts.”

Adele Ratcliff, the Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program office director, said, “I am confident that this effort will enable greater stakeholder cooperation across the U.S. industrial base and encourage more partners to come forward to join the effort to drive sufficient scale and velocity into our industrial workforce development pipelines, all with the end goal of elevating U.S. manufacturing to world-leading status.”

The Skills Imperative is a call to action to strengthen our economic and national security. Those interested in answering this call can email [email protected] to learn more about the Skills Imperative or how to join the IBAS program’s Cornerstone Consortium of members eligible to propose prototyping efforts.


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