REMAKING AMERICAN SECURITY
by BG John Adams, USA (Ret)
With the closing of factories across the United States and the mass exodus of manufacturing jobs to China and other nations over the past 30 years, the United States’ critically important defense industrial base has deteriorated dramatically. As a result, this country now relies heavily on imports to keep our armed forces equipped and ready. Compounding this rising reliance on foreign suppliers, the United States also depends increasingly on foreignfinancing arrangements.
In addition, the United States is not mining enough of the critical metals and other raw materials needed to produce important weapon systems and military supplies. These products include the night vision devices (made with a rareearth element) that enabled U.S. Navy SEALs [sea, air, land teams] to hunt down Osama bin Laden.
Consequently, the health of the U.S. defense industrial base—and with it our national security—is in jeopardy. We are vulnerable to major disruptions in foreign supplies that could make it impossible for U.S. warriors, warships, tanks, aircraft and missiles to operate effectively. Such supply disruptions could be caused by many factors, including:•Poor manufacturing practices in offshore factories that produce problem-plagued products. Shoddy manufacturing could be inadvertent, could be part of a deliberate attempt to cut costs and boost profits, or could be intentionally designed to damage U.S.
capabilities. Motivated by expected gains in cost, innovation and efficiency, DOD began a decided shift from parts made to military specifications to commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts and equipment two decades ago. However, COTS items often lack the quality control and traceability necessary to ensure that parts used in the defense supply chain meet the rigorous standards we expect of equipment vital to our national security. Faulty and counterfeit COTS parts are already taking a toll on readiness in several defense sectors.•Natural disasters, domestic unrest, or changes in government that could cut or halt production and exports at foreign factories and mines.•Foreign producers that sharply raise prices or reduce or stop sales to the
The recommendations call for:
United States. These changes could be caused by political or military disputes with the United States, by the desire of foreign nations to sell to other countries, by the need to attract foreign investment and production, or by foreign nations wanting to keep more of the raw materials, parts and finished goods they produce for their own use.
The following 10 recommendations to make the United States less dependent on the importation of products essential to our national security are based on the premise that the U.S. defense industrial base is a vital national asset that is no less critical to our national security than our men and women in uniform.
1. Increasing long-term federal investment in high-technology industries, particularly those involving advanced research and manufacturing capabilities. The distinguishing attribute of the U.S. defense industrial base is technological innovation. As foreign nations continue manufacturing an ever-larger share of America’s defense supplies, the United States increases its risk of diminishing its capacity to design and commercialize emerging defense technologies. To help ensure that our armed forces dominate the future battlefield, Congress should provide funding for American manufacturers to develop and implement advanced process technologies. 2. Properly applying and enforcing existing laws and regulations to support the U.S. defense industrial base. Domestic source preferences already enacted into law, such as those that apply to the steel and titanium industries under the Specialty Metals Clause, must be retained to ensure that important defense capabilities remain secure and available for the U.S. armed forces. 3. Developing domestic sources of key natural resources required by our armed forces. Right now, the United States relies far too heavily on foreign nations for certain key metals and other raw materials needed to manufacture weapon systems and other military supplies. For example, most rare earth elements, which are essential components of many modern military technologies, currently must be purchased from China. (See Figure 1, Page 102.) The U.S. government and industry must stockpile these vital raw materials, strengthen efforts to resume mining and transformation of the materials in the United States, improve recycling to make more efficient use of current supplies, and identify alternate materials. 4. Developing plans to strengthen our defense industrial base in the U.S. National Military Strategy, National
Security Strategy and the Quadrennial Defense Review process. This would make creating and sustaining a healthier defense industrial base a higher national priority, with a focus on increasing support for the most important and vulnerable industrial sectors. 5. Building consensus among government, industry, the defense industrial base workforce and the military on the best ways to strengthen the defense industrial base. These sectors must work collaboratively to successfully address the concerns of all defense industrial base stakeholders. 6. Increasing cooperation among federal agencies and between government and industry to build a healthier defense industrial base. The Departments of State, Treasury, Energy, Commerce, Homeland Security and others in the executive branch should join the Department of Defense in working to bolster the defense industrial base. 7. Strengthening collaboration among government, industry and academic research institutions to educate, train and retain people with specialized skills to work in key defense industrial base sectors. The loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs has reduced the size of the workforce skilled in research, development and advanced manufacturing processes. 8. Crafting legislation to support a broadly representative defense industrial base strategy. Congress and the administration must collaborate on economic and fiscal policies that budget for enduring national security capabilities and sustain the industrial base necessary to support them. 9. Modernizing and securing defense supply chains through networked operations. These operations should be built on the excellent work that
DOD and industry are already doing to map and secure defense supply chains. The operations would provide ongoing communications between prime contractors and the supply chains they depend on. Closer communications, patterned on the networked operations of U.S. military forces around the world, would help managers identify and solve recurring problems with military
10.Identifying potential defense supply chain choke points and planning to prevent disruptions. This recommendation would require determining the scope of foreign control over critical military supply chains and finding ways of restoring U.S. control.This article is an excerpt from “Remaking American Security: Supply Chain Vulnerabilities & National Security Risks Across the U.S. Defense Industrial Base,” published in May by the Alliance for American Manufacturing at
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of DA or the U.S. government.
BG JOHN ADAMS, USA (Ret), is president of Guardian Six Consulting LLC. He served his final military assignment as deputy U.S. military representative to the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium. He retired from the Army in September 2007. Adams is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Arizona and holds master’s degrees in international relations from Boston University, English from the University of Massachusetts and strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.