How Israel’s Defense Industry Can Help Save America
By Arthur Herman. Mr. Herman, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Built the Arsenal of Democracy that Won World War II, which will be published by Random House in April.
- The Israeli way of doing defense business is changing the shape of the military-industrial complex. Smaller, nimbler, and entrepreneurial, Israel’s defense industry offers a salutary contrast to the Pentagon’s way of doing things. With the spending and budget crisis in the United States already putting immense pressure on the Pentagon, with all-but-certain declines in the percentage of the U.S. economy that will be devoted to defense in the coming decade, a second “revolution in military affairs” is going to be necessary. We are going to have to get more for less—much less. Israel points the way.
- Kibbutz Sasa sits one mile from Israel’s Lebanese border. Founded in 1949, it is the site of the tomb of the second-century rabbi Levi ben Sisi. It hosts groves of fruit trees and a dairy farm and has 210 members. Kibbutz Sasa is also the home of the main factory of Plasan, a company that started out making hard plastic containers like garbage cans in 1985. For four years now, American soldiers have driven more safely in Iraq and Afghanistan, thanks to Kibbutz Sasa and Plasan’s CEO, Dani Ziv.
Plasan specializes in a very dense plastic composite product that affords ballistic protection without significantly adding to the weight of the vehicle. “Their work is exceptional,” says a senior Israeli defense industry executive about Plasan. “To convince the U.S. military that you are a reliable outfit is no mean feat. They did it all alone, without any help from a former ambassador or defense ministry director general.”
Plasan-armored mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) have been serving in Afghanistan since August 2009, and contractor Oshkosh Company has another 8,800 on order. In 2009 Plasan even opened a factory in Bennington, Vermont, to do the work for its American contract. But while the 350 or so workers there are American, the technology is decidedly Israeli.