3D Systems’ Latest Acquisition? A Member of the White House

3D Systems recently created a new position (and I am not referring here to the Chief Creative Officer post). This one is for Vice President of Alliances and Partnerships. Who’d they make this position for? No, not Ke$ha. A one Neal Orringer, former member of the Obama administration.  The joining of a bureaucrat to the management of a 3D printing company might not sound all that exciting, but if you put on your tinfoil thinking cap, you can draw all sorts of conclusions.  What does 3D Systems want with Mr. Orringer and what does Orringer want with 3DS?

Orringer’s role in Washington goes pretty far back. He obtained a masters degree in national security studies from Georgetown University, which contributed to his entry through the military door of the White House. He worked as a staffer for Senators Jean Carnahan and Mary Landrieu on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Later, he was Senator Chris Dodd’s legislative assistant, covering “military, manufacturing, foreign investment, and trade matters.” This information is courtersy of the University of Michigan website, by the way.

As a senior staff member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs, Orringer helped draft and negotiate important pieces of legislation: The 2007 Foreign Investment & National Security Act, The International Emergency Economic Powers Enhancement Act, The Auto Industry Financing & Restructuring Act (the auto bailout after the economic crisis hit) and The 2009 Defense Production Act (DPA) Reauthorization. I’m no legal scholar, but I believe that this last one is used to contract government work out to businesses for defense manufacturing.

This led him to become the Director of Manufacturing, where he oversaw the Department of Defense’s Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) portfolio, managing the annual budget for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Defense Logistics Agency, and “Defense-Wide” programs. He then became the Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Commerce on Manufacturing Policy, where he led in the establishment of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, now called America Makes.

So, if you’ve still got your tinfoil thinking cap on, you may be connecting the dots into a disjointed, amorphous blob that almost looks like the following image: 3D Systems wants in on the hefty defense manufacturing budget. Orringer points out that the Department of Defense makes a great customer, in a speech at the University of Michigan in 2011:

The Department of Defense’s interest in manufacturing is like no other agency’s. First, we’re talking about numbers, the Department of Defense is responsible for about 80% of the government’s manufacturing expenditures. So out of a $700 billion budget, we procure about $100 billion outright, invest $80 billion in R&D, and spend about $200 billion in operations and maintenance. Second, the DoD is the only department that plans, develops, buys, and then maintains products for entire life cycles.   So we’re not just investing in industry, we’re longtime customers.

Additionally, through his work with the DoD, he, no doubt, has a great deal of knowledge about the various members of the defense manufacturing community. As a major player in the establishment of America Makes, Orringer may offer a unique perspective on the institute’s operations, how it fits into the federal budget and how 3D Systems might leverage the institute’s capabilities. In his new role as the VP of Alliances and Partnerships, he may be ideally suited to establish relationships through all of the connections he made while in office, both in government and among members of the manufacturing community. With 3D Systems opening up a revolving door to the White House, they could well establish themselves firmly into the foundation of the US political and business infrastructure.

Then again, if you take the tinfoil thinking cap off, crumple it up and put it in the microwave, it might occur to you that 3D Systems’ newest member is just a person with a very impressive resume, a good eye for finance as it relates to manufacturing and a lot of knowledge about manufacturing partners in the United States.

Source: 3D Systems