Industrial Mobilization: Assessing Surge Capabilities, Wartime Risk, and System Brittleness

With the shift of U.S. strategic focus to great power competition, interest in industrial mobilization for a long-term, high-intensity conflict has returned. However, the highly consolidated and fragile U.S. defense industrial base is not designed to meet this challenge. To gain insight into the ability of the defense industrial base to meet the demands of great power conflict, this project reviewed the history and literature on industrial mobilization and then analyzed the time needed to replace contemporary weapon systems’ inventory at peacetime and surge production rates. This analysis was based on an original database developed using production data found in the P-21 and P-40 exhibits in the Department of Defense (DOD) procurement justification books from 1999, 2008, and 2020. The study found that it would take many years to replace weapon inventories in the event of a long, high-intensity conflict, even at surge production rates. Further, the study found that the industrial base has become more brittle over time, as it takes longer to replace inventories at FY 2020 production rates than at FY 1999 production rates.  

This report is funded by a grant from the Naval Postgraduate School. 

Adam Saxton

Owen Helman

Lee Ann Bryan

Nidal Morrison