Two highly decorated military officers, Colonel Jon R. Drushal and Lieutenant Commander Michael Llenza, have published an editorial piece on the Atlantic Council website. The piece calls for the Department of Defense to create a strategic plan for the incorporation of 3D printing into the various military branches. It also criticizes the DoD for being slow to create a cohesive plan and warns them about what may happen if they don't take steps to streamline their current additive manufacturing efforts.
"The 3D printing revolution is completely upending the global manufacturing base. Its potential impact on defense and national security is just as revolutionary but could be marginalized if the Defense Department fails to adopt a comprehensive vision and strategy," the pair wrote. "Although many components of DoD are beginning to jump on the bandwagon, the agency as a whole does not have a clear strategy or cohesive policy which will allow it to advance beyond the small and specialty components of the Department. This piecemeal approach can be detrimental to the Department by duplicating efforts and multiplying costs, as well as missing the benefit of what 3D technology can do for the Department as a whole."
The piecemeal approach the pair is referring to may include projects like the Army's first attempts to deploy mobile additive manufacturing labs to Afghanistan, the Robo Raven spy drone, 3D printed surgical kits and much of the work being done at the Tobyhanna Army Depot. Instead of each individual department trying to discover how additive manufacturing can benefit them individually, Drushal and Llenza would like to see the Department of Defense step in with a new regulatory committee that coordinates all of the military's additive manufacturing efforts. "One step towards a clear strategy and cohesive approach is for DoD to designate an AM Czar within the Department. They could serve as a single point for all things AM and not the myriad of technical advisory boards that currently exist...The key to AM's success within the department is an acceptance that the technology is revolutionary, not evolutionary or merely manufacturing modernization. [It] may fundamentally shape how we defend our nation."
Colonel Jon R. Drushal and Lieutenant Commander Michael Llenza have been outspoken proponents of additive manufacturing in the past, including a recent piece written by Llenza which called for the US Navy to use more additive manufacturing equipment aboard its aircraft carriers.