WASHINGTON — A new industry report warns of a coming U.S. national security crisis that could be spawned by a “growing and dangerous” reliance on combat system components and raw materials purchased from foreign sources.
“Remaking American Security: Supply Chain Vulnerabilities & National Security Risks Across the U.S. Defense Industrial Base,” compiled by the Guardian Six consulting firm for the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), concludes, “the United States now relies heavily on imports to keep our armed forces equipped and ready,” as well as “foreign financing arrangements.”
Both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations resisted so-called “Buy America” provisions and bills when such measures were pushed on Capitol Hill. They have argued against warnings of vulnerable weapon systems, and noted the lower costs of buying from foreign sources.
A chart inside the beefy report warns that some major military platforms that will be in the American arsenal for decades “face a range of supply chain vulnerabilities.” That list includes the F-35 and F-22 fighter jets, the littoral combat ship, the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft, the Joint Direct Attack Munition, night-vision gear, communications systems and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Because of these alleged vulnerabilities, the AAM report declares, “the health of the United States’ defense industrial base — and 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,” states the report, warning of “supply disruptions.”
What’s more, the alliance also found that the U.S. “is not mining enough of the critical metals and other raw materials needed to produce important weapons systems and military supplies” that are used in items such as “the night-vision devices … that enabled Navy SEALS to hunt down Osama bin Laden.”
Such statements appear aimed at lawmakers, who could pass new laws limiting the Pentagon’s ability to use foreign-bought components, and/or laws aimed at boosting American manufacturing of such items.
(Regarding rare earth elements, a recent Pentagon report determined the amount of those key elements Washington buys from other nations for combat systems is acceptable.)
The report’s political audience was clear Wednesday. It was rolled out on Capitol Hill, with pro-manufacturing members there to laud its findings.
“Standing behind every soldier, sailor, airman or Marine is a proud group of American workers and companies building the platforms and weapon systems essential to our national defense,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
Murphy plugged a home-state company, and warned of dire consequences if Washington opted to “allow” such firms to close their doors.
“In my home state of Connecticut, companies like Ansonia Specialty Metals are making products used in nearly every vessel in the U.S. Navy,” Murphy said. “This report reminds us that if the federal government were to allow these critical defense manufacturers to go out of business, it would have dire consequences for our national security.”
The report received bipartisan support from members hailing from states with a large defense-sector and manufacturing presence, on which their constituents are economically dependent.
House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., stated “America relied on too many foreign products incorporated into too many American weapons systems.”
Brooks called the U.S. military’s supply chain “foreign based” and warned that such a system “weakens America’s economy.” He also raised concerns that “it makes America’s defense systems vulnerable, which puts America’s national security at unnecessary risk.”
Retired Army Brig. Gen. John Adams, who is president of the consulting firm that compiled the study, called the existing military supply chain “frightening.”
Adams called the report “a wake-up call” and urged “America to pay attention to the growing threat posed by the steady deterioration of our defense industrial base.”
It was not immediately clear whether Guardian Six stands to benefit from any changes to existing Pentagon buying practices or existing laws.
Its website states the consulting firm “distill[s] complex issues and delivers usable products to our clients.
“Guardian Six is ideally suited to help companies with defense-related products and services compete in the growing global defense and national security marketplace,” states its site. “We address problems such as defense critical requirements, strategic threats, defense industrial policy, arms control, non-proliferation, terrorism, and new security threats.”
The report makes nearly a dozen recommendations. One is a call for Congress to “provide funding for American manufacturers to develop and implement advanced process technologies.” Another is to properly enforce existing laws that favor U.S. firms.
Others are to foster raw materials at home and adopt policies to bolster the American defense industrial base. Still others involve “determining the scope of foreign control over critical military supply chains and finding ways of restoring U.S. control,” and improving communication between industry and the Pentagon.