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Overcoming Invisible Fences in Defense

Tom Arseneault spoke at the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy
Tom Arseneault, executive vice president of Product Sectors, at the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy

“Invisible fences” are barriers to national defense, and overcoming these regulatory, bureaucratic, fiscal, and cultural forces is critical to ensuring the nation’s security and the health of the industry that supplies it, Tom Arseneault told an elite group of military students.

“Imagine an entire industry ringed in by invisible fences,” Arseneault, executive vice president for Product Sectors, told about 300 students at the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy in Washington, D.C. “Fences of different heights, different voltages, always changing and moving.

“We become conditioned to avoid certain areas, to freeze if we go too far in one direction. We become hesitant and risk-averse, even if the fence was turned off long ago,” he told the students, training for leadership and executive positions in the field of national security.

While some of these fences are facts of life, “some are of our own making” — and “all can send a shock through the defense contracting community if we do not know where they are.” Arseneault talked to the future leaders about how they can identify and overcome these obstacles and “help shape a national security strategy that aligns fiscal realities with real-world threats, big and small.”

Despite the pinch of sequestration and strict regulations, Arseneault expressed optimism about the industry’s future — emphasizing the need to mobilize forces during these challenging times. He quoted the school’s namesake, former President Dwight Eisenhower, who said America’s armed forces “must be economical enough to be bearable in the long pull — the lean years and the boom years — but at the same time, it must be quickly and fully responsive to the complicated and ever-changing requirements of modern war.”

BAE Systems, Arseneault said, “believes that the industry is willing to be everything Eisenhower asked it to be: economical and responsive.” He added, “We are taking the needed steps — from rationalization to consolidation to smart diversification — to maintain and preserve the base, even with some crippling constraints.”

He urged the students to recognize that “we are all in this together,” and that “the industrial base that allows us to protect those who protect us can be preserved.”