New Navy council to tackle foreign investment risks

by Vern Evans

The U.S. Navy is creating a council meant to counter “adversarial economic activities,” such as intellectual property theft and exploitation of the supply chain, that harm the Navy and Marine Corps, according to the Navy secretary.

Carlos Del Toro said Thursday the Maritime Economic Deterrence Executive Council is needed because other countries have taken steps that threaten the Navy’s technology development and supply chain.

He described “exploiting supply chain vulnerabilities, adversarial capital investments in companies developing technologies that are critical to our fleet and our force” and ongoing “intellectual property theft” as “concerted actions designed to weaken our competitive advantages, not only at sea but on the world’s economic stage.”

The new council is co-chaired by Vice Adm. Francis Morley, the top uniformed advisor to the Navy’s acquisition community, and Chris Diaz, the secretary’s chief of staff, Del Toro said at an Aspen Strategy Group event in New York.

The council includes representation from the research and development community, supply chain and critical infrastructure experts, and intelligence and law enforcement organizations within the Department of the Navy.

Del Toro said this group, using authorities already granted to the department, “will focus on mitigating adversarial foreign investment risks, innovation and technology protection, supply chain integrity initiatives, and the coordination and protection of research efforts across both the government as well as the private sector.”

Morley, speaking at the same event, said the group had an initial meeting to discuss the challenges ahead. He said the meeting made clear each community has been taking its own steps to protect intellectual property, research and supply chains, but that they could accomplish more working in tandem.

Del Toro said the council’s establishment follows other Biden administration efforts to shore up “seams” between the military, the traditional defense industrial base and the innovation sector.

He cited the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act as an early step to ensure American independence in critical technology and manufacturing sectors.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy this month released a 2024 list of critical and emerging technologies with national security importance, including artificial intelligence, hypersonics and quantum information.

And, he added, the Department of Defense last month released its first-ever National Defense Industrial Strategy outlining how to modernize the defense sector.

Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.

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