On Wednesday, January 21, 2015, Northrop Grumman Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President Wes Bush addressed the U.S. Studies Centre Alliance 21 Conference in Washington, D.C. Below are his remarks.

Australia and America — New Partnerships for New Challenges

Thanks, Robert (former Australian Minister for Defence, the Honorable Robert Hill, AC). And thanks to the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and to the Brookings Institution for your leadership in organizing today’s event. I am especially honored to speak today following two such remarkable individuals – (Australian) Foreign Minister (Julie) Bishop and (U.S.) Undersecretary (Christine) Wormuth – who represent the very best of our nations in their tireless pubic service and steadfast commitment to a strong U.S.-Australia relationship.

I’m so pleased to be with you today at this important event under the banner of the U.S. Studies Centre Alliance 21 program. Like most close friendships, the relationship between Australia and the U.S. encompasses a broad spectrum of common interests. Defense, of course, has been an area of incredibly close cooperation between our two countries for many decades and our defense relationship has – and will have – growing importance to the trade and investment outlook of our two nations. But the friendship between our two countries rests on a more fundamental basis of shared values and aligned interests in building a brighter future.

My first exposure to Australia was many years ago when my wife, Natalie, and I lived in Alice Springs the first year we were married.

I was a young engineer and Natalie, just out of nursing school, worked as a nurse for the Northern Territory government.

Over the many years since living in Australia, I have had the chance to return there often and see first-hand how dynamic, fast-growing and “leading-edge” the Australian economy is.

From energy and resource production to technology, Australia and the United States provide each other with a vast array of opportunities for partnership between companies, universities, government organizations and other important enterprises that together are shaping the future we are working to create.

And those opportunities are the result of all we have in common, including:

  • An appreciation for education;
  • The rule and power of law, freedom and the free market;
  • The dominant role of intellectual capital in our high-tech world; and
  • An interest in the freedom, security and prosperity of the Pacific hemisphere and around the globe.

I would like to spend a few minutes talking about those common interests and their role in our trade and investment relationship. And I will do so from the perspective of someone who has spent his working life in the defense and security industry.

I think this is a great forum for such a conversation because the national and economic security of free nations are inseparable. The former safeguards the latter, and the latter pays for the former.

And that symbiosis allows the creation of national wealth – wealth that benefits our lives and the lives of our children and even those future fellow citizens yet unborn.

Of course, one need not be a part of any particular industry to appreciate that Australia and the United States have a deep strategic relationship – one that goes back decades.

Through conflicts large and small, hot and cold, the security of our nations – and indeed, of all the world’s free nations – has benefited from our common devotion to the basic principles of liberty and prosperity.

That’s a pretty strong foundation to build on, and it has been years in the making. Today, we can be glad for it, because the Pacific Region – so central to the futures of our countries – is under tremendous pressure at many different levels and from many different quarters.

It would be fair to ask how our economic relationship can be expected to cope with the growing security challenges our national leaders see fit to address – especially in this time of tightening defense budgets.

One answer would be, the same way we always have – by falling back on the one thing that has never let us down. A commitment to free market economies driven by innovation and technological superiority.

During the Cold War, our commitment to a market-driven economy and technological superiority was how we managed to out-compete a command economy that was willing to defer the needs and desires of their people in the service of massive defense production.

It was economic strength and technological superiority that allowed the world’s free nations to create a solid defense deterrent while keeping defense expenditures within single digit percentages of GNP. And in the process, scientific and technological advances were made that eventually translated into consumer value and improved standards of living for our peoples.

That same market perspective and commitment to technological superiority must now be applied to the challenges of our common interests in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world. The good news is that those challenges lend themselves nicely to the types of solutions our partnership has successfully generated by working together over many years.

As an example of a challenge we face together, the Pacific Ocean is the largest single geographic feature on the planet and one that is becoming increasingly critical to our world. An important challenge is staying apprised of developments on it, above it and below its surface.

In years past, these demands of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance might have been met with large numbers of ships, manned aircraft, and legions of highly trained people.

Today, we, together, can satisfy much of the ISR demands with far fewer platforms and people.

Whether we are using unmanned airborne and underwater vehicles, satellites, or advanced manned air capabilities, technology is making this daunting challenge something we can reasonably address.

And our commitment to technological superiority will be critical to solving any of the many cybersecurity challenges facing us.

In our increasingly knowledge-based economies, technological superiority will underpin the national and economic security strategy of both our countries in the future as it has the past.

But if that’s the case, then surely our alliance will be enhanced through deliberate cooperation in the development of advanced technologies: development on both sides of the Pacific, by industry in both countries, contributing to requirements in the US and in Australia.

Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organization, or DSTO, and several of the companies that comprise our collective defense industry, have entered into strategic alliances and relationships that promise great advances; advances in technological capabilities, regional security, and in the economic health of an industry that must be allowed to remain economically healthy.

However, let’s keep in mind that the success or failure in achieving the promises of those relationships will depend on the policies of the governments that have ultimate control over them.

One of the major barriers here in the US has been export and import control rules that often applied to even our closest friends. I am delighted that the US Government has committed itself to rationalizing and updating these regulations.

This was a welcome development and those efforts need to be supported and even accelerated.

Let me stress that the advantages of alliances between DSTO and the defense industry will spill over into Australia’s economy as well. In fact, they already are.

Several American defense companies have already expanded their partnership and engagement with Australian suppliers – and that expansion continues.

Many of those relationships were created through Australia’s Defence Materiel Organization – the DMO. Specifically, its Global Supply Chain Program.

That program is showing tremendous promise.

It focuses on developing opportunities for small and medium enterprise suppliers to export their work internationally. This allows them to support global supply chains like those of some of the larger companies in America’s defense industry – companies like Northrop Grumman.

That DMO program is producing results that benefit the defense industries of both nations:

  • Ferra of Brisbane is now doing machine work on the F/A-18 Hornet;
  • Quickstep of Sydney is providing composites for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; and
  • CEA of Canberra has provided advanced radar equipment for a major U.S. defense program.

But more can and will be done to provide greater access for Australian firms seeking international opportunities.

Over the course of my remarks today, you might have noted that I am a big fan of technological superiority, which, I believe lies at the heart of any cooperative effort to safeguard the Pacific region and beyond.

But there is another theme in play as well. In fact, this theme makes technological superiority possible.

I’m talking about partnership. Real partnership. The kind that is sometimes difficult and complicated. The kind that requires commitment at all levels: Commitment to basic research; to applied research; and to the actual development of products.

Real partnerships must include addressing the government policy roadblocks that often hinder progress. They have to be government-to-government; industry-to-industry; industry to government. And both government and industry must maintain strong relationships with the great research universities in Australia and the U.S.

Real partnerships must be all-inclusive and omni-directional if they are to bear fruit in the arena of innovation.

And because the heart and soul of technological superiority is intellectual capital, the partnership with educational institutions is among the most important.

The fundamental commitment of that partnership with education must be the creation and delivery of world-class intellectual capital able to drive technological superiority. And the challenge of staying ahead is getting tougher as technology expands around the globe. As such, the old patterns and paradigms are no longer sufficient.

Industry cannot simply be a financial partner with education any longer.

We are now seeing new methods and models of partnership are producing results that serve a broad range of interests from those of students to those of industry, to the colleges and universities themselves.

The defense industry partners are working with colleges and universities to identify the needs of industry – in other words, highly technical jobs – and to shape a curriculum that will supply the graduates qualified to fill them. As with any partnership, success comes one step at a time.

And so, for example, several first steps have been taken with the University of Sydney wherein Northrop Grumman is partnering for research and development into small space satellites, and unmanned and autonomous aerospace technologies.

We’re also working with the University of New South Wales and Australian Defence Force Academy to pursue development of sovereign cyber capabilities.

At Dickson College we support scholarships and grants in support of science and engineering. And we sponsor such events as the Outback UAV Challenge and the VEX Robotics challenge.

These partnerships must also expand into earlier education as well, so that we will build the pipeline of talent into the universities.

These efforts represent good starts. But by no means are they yet commensurate with their potential.

And, I might add, that potential extends to our common non-security interests as well, such as life-sciences and other areas of fast-paced technological innovation.

In other words, more and better partnerships are needed to produce the technological superiority our nations will need to assure the aspirations of our common region and our common humanity for prosperity, security and stability.

Our joint commitment to market-driven economies and technological superiority has never let us down. And as long as we stay committed to it – as long as we cultivate it and value it as our foremost national security asset – the struggle to maintain peace, freedom and the rule of law in the Pacific hemisphere will be conducted on our terms, not on the terms of those who would violate those principles.

However, our current technological preeminence is not ours by tenure or birthright. It came to us through hard work, and through commitment and partnerships at every conceivable level.

As in decades past, our preeminence must be cultivated, polished, fed, and argued for if it is to be there when we need it.

We must never forget that the pace of technology is moving so fast that, once lost, that technological preeminence might never be recovered. There is an old test pilot’s saying: "You’ve never been lost until you’ve been lost at mach five." The pace of technology is moving at mach five and given the stakes, we cannot afford to get lost.

The watchwords are vision, effort and ceaseless persistence.

The keys are partnerships between industry, government and academia.

The objectives are synergy between our two nations, enhanced economic, national and global security, and better lives for our peoples.

Thanks again for the opportunity to join in this event today, which further evidences the partnership between our countries. I’m glad to be a part of such a worthwhile undertaking, and I look forward to working with each of you to ensure its success.

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