Sean Ludwig Sean Ludwig
Senior Editorial Director, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


July 10, 2024


June 21, 2024


For the first time in the 75-year history of NATO, an alliance-endorsed working conference of business executives, defense officials, and NATO leaders gathered to seek solutions to a safer world.

At the NATO Summit Defense Industry Forum, hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and occurring alongside the NATO Summit in Washington, D.C., the work and discussion focused on transatlantic industrial cooperation and boosting defense production. The Forum was organized in collaboration with NATO and the White House.

At the Forum, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan outlined a series of measures to strengthen U.S. and NATO support for Ukraine. These include establishing a new military command in Germany, led by a three-star general, to oversee the training and equipping of Ukrainian troops and appointing a senior representative in Kyiv to enhance Ukraine's relationship with the alliance. Emphasizing NATO's long-term commitment to standing with Ukraine, Sullivan said, “Putin cannot divide us. He cannot outlast us. He cannot weaken us. And Ukraine, not Russia, will prevail.” 

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke at the NATO Summit Defense Industry Forum, hosted at the Chamber.

Watch more videos from the Forum.

Also attending were NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, defense ministers from the Allied nations, and business leaders from key defense companies including Oracle, RTX, Lockheed Martin, and General Atomics.   

"There is no way to provide strong defense without a strong defense industry. This industry is key to ensuring we have the ingenuity to maintain our technological edge to defend our alliance," Stoltenberg said.

He also announced at the Forum that NATO has signed a nearly $700 million contract to have member countries produce more Stinger missiles.

“The war in Ukraine revealed how nation state aggression is a real threat requiring information age ingenuity and industrial era capacity," said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.
“The war in Ukraine revealed how nation state aggression is a real threat requiring information age ingenuity and industrial era capacity," said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.

The Forum convened senior government leaders from NATO Allies, close partner nations, and industry leaders to discuss progress, next steps, and opportunities. Together, they will develop recommendations in support of NATO's program to strengthen defense industry collaboration and to continue the progress of the NATO Defense Production Action Plan (DPAP).

“In an increasingly dangerous world, it is essential that America and our NATO allies restock the traditional ‘arsenals of democracy,’ while simultaneously building the capacity to meet the threats of the future. Needed increases in defense production require greater transatlantic cooperation between both governments and industry," said Suzanne P. Clark, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber. "Thwarting cyber-attacks and meaningfully preparing for an AI future can only be achieved through partnership between government and the private sector. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pleased to host the first NATO Summit Defense Industry Forum to ensure that the alliance can continue to safeguard the security of its members.”  

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1/14The Chamber convened CEOs from BAE Systems, Oracle, General Atomics, and RTX.
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2/14Government and business leaders met at the Chamber for the NATO Summit Defense Industry Forum.
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3/14NATO countries got to work at the NATO Summit Defense Industry Forum.
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4/14U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan discussed measures to strengthen U.S. and NATO support for Ukraine.
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5/14Government and business officials talked about collective defense and other topics.
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6/14Government and industry leaders met at the forum.
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7/14Government and industry officials convened for the NATO Summit Defense Industry Forum.
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8/14The NATO flag flies outside the U.S. Chamber headquarters.
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9/14The NATO Summit Defense Industry Forum brought together government and industry to talk defense and more.
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10/14The NATO Summit Defense Industry Forum was hosted at the Chamber.
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11/14NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke at the event.
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12/14Government and industry leaders discussed the future of NATO defense at the forum.
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13/14Kathleen Hicks, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, spoke at the forum.
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14/14The NATO Summit Defense Industry Forum gathered industry and government officials.

Key details about the NATO Summit Defense Industry Forum

Keith Webster, U.S. Chamber Vice President for Cyber, Space, and National Security Policy and Defense, and Aerospace Council President, answered key questions and shared details about the event, including the catalyst for the historic gathering.  

This is the first time in the history of the NATO Alliance of 75 years where, on the margins of an annual summit, industry executives are invited to sit with government ministers to discuss policy changes needed within the Alliance to advance defense and industrial transatlantic cooperation. It was spurred primarily by the conflict in Ukraine and the impact that invasion has had on Alliance members from the readiness perspective. All Alliance members have worked hard to support Ukraine and its ability to defend itself against Russian aggression, which has led to diminished stockpiles. Now, we're approaching a crisis from an industrial perspective: How do we ramp up to resupply ourselves while continuing to supply Ukraine and other allies? 

What major topics will be addressed? 

The Forum will address five themes: 

  • How best to accelerate defense industrial production when confronted with the continued war in Ukraine. 
  • Longer-term industrial cooperation, say five to 10 years from now. This will focus on the innovation that's required to protect the Alliance in the future. 
  • Cyberattacks and the challenges to societal resilience, including vulnerabilities of infrastructure, water, electricity, roads, etc.  
  • How the Alliance capitalizes on the rapid evolution of AI to protect themselves in the future. 
  • Space from the context of security within the Alliance and how the commercial sector is globally accelerating its presence in space.  

What lessons has the NATO Alliance learned from the war in Ukraine?  

There have been a few; one lesson is the effectiveness of commercial off-the-shelf capability that Ukrainian forces have adopted for wartime. For example, UAVs are equipped to drop bombs or grenades. Another lesson is that we’ve seen the return of land warfare in a way we never expected and the importance of air defense. We’ve also learned that modern warfare has changed since the Cold War period and will continue to morph. Ukraine is where we are seeing how war has already changed, in addition to providing indicators of how the nature of war will continue to evolve. This includes the wake-up call that what was once sufficient for scale and speed of production simply isn't enough for the current moment or the future. 

How can governments create better transatlantic industrial cooperation?  

First, the Alliance needs to understand industry's needs, requirements, and where the money is coming from. The industry needs confidence and stability over multiple years that the governments aren't going to stop and change their minds. If you pour concrete to increase production capacity, you need confidence that you can use that facility for the long haul. From the U.S. perspective, the President should have multi-year authority over select programs to give industry confidence in its investments. From a regulatory perspective, even if it's temporary, governments within the Alliance working with industry also need to consider temporary relief from regulatory and licensing requirements. 

Join us for the Global Aerospace Summit

The summit will feature the world's foremost aviation and space experts, including CEOs and policymakers, from Sept. 10-11 in Washington, D.C. The event is an opportunity to learn, network, and explore, with engaging discussions, exhibits, and state-of-the-art aircraft prototypes.

What can the defense industry be doing to increase production?  

  • Find, hire, and train workers when ramping up. This is highly skilled work. CEOs in the U.S. and Europe say it takes a year to hire and train workers and then put them on the production line.  
  • Figure out your supply chains. If a company that's running two shifts wants to add a third, it needs to find suppliers and figure out supply chains to provide enough parts. 
  • Maintain strong communication with local utilities. One CEO I know was denied additional electricity for a third shift because of a newly installed data center stressing the grid.  

How is the Alliance approaching the space landscape?

Space is a new, collaborative component and domain of both geopolitical competition and warfare of the Alliance. We're in the infancy of exploring how we minimize growing threats in space. The discussions at our forum will be the first time in a collaborative group that invites industries in to get their opinions on what we should be doing from a policy perspective. 

What is the NATO Alliance doing to address cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure?  

For the Alliance, the biggest issue is how to treat a cyberattack. Does it trigger an Article Five reaction, where “an attack on one is an attack on all?” The only time Article Five has ever been invoked in 75 years was when the U.S. was attacked on 9/11. With cyber, we're all getting attacked. So, the Alliance must continue to work on how to assess and react to these attacks. They must now be evaluated with a joint civil-military assessment and agreement. 

How should we envision AI in the security architecture of the NATO Alliance?  

AI is another area in its infancy that is exciting to discuss. From a security perspective, we will focus on using AI to our advantage. We can use AI and machine learning to sift through enormous amounts of data to determine what we should focus on. For example, we have a lot of data coming into command centers in the United States. Artificial intelligence can help us sift through enormous quantities of battlefield or surveillance data to make better decisions. 

About the authors

Sean Ludwig

Sean Ludwig

Sean Ludwig is a Senior Editorial Director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.