WASHINGTON ― An in-depth review of the American defense-industrial base will be publicly released “around May 15” and will focus heavily on what materials the U.S. is dependent on China for, according to the Pentagon’s top acquisition official.
“What comes up and is quite alarming ― and you will see in the unclassified portion, which should be coming out around May 15 ― is we have an amazing amount of dependency on China,” Ellen Lord said at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We are sole sources for rare earth minerals, some energetics, different things. This is a problem for us as we move forward.”
President Donald Trump signed an executive order in July ordering the review to discover unhealthy areas in the industrial base or weak spots in the supply chain. That review falls under the overarching idea, pushed heavily by White House Director of Trade and Industrial Policy Peter Navarro, that “economic security is national security.”
More than a dozen working groups from across government have been studying the defense-industrial base to recommend ways to cover gaps and weaknesses. Those groups include representatives from the Pentagon and other agencies like the departments of Commerce and Homeland Security. Some of the working groups are aligned with subsectors like shipbuilding, ground vehicles or radars, while others match cross-cutting topics like the workforce, cybersecurity or electronics.
The review has also included industrial base war games, to discover what would happen should natural or man-made disasters impact the ability of America to produce parts or planes.
Early on, it became clear the review would look at where America’s supply chain relies on Russia or China, the two other great powers in the world.
Lord told reporters after the event that the public document “will clearly give categories where we are sole-sourced and where we have facility in the supply chain. And you will also see a round of efforts that we have to repair those fragilities.”
“So we will be coming out with a whole series of actions we’re taking as the government, to make sure we work with our allies and partners if we don’t have the capability domestically, so that we don’t have that dependency on China,” Lord said.
Her comments came a day before the Aerospace Industries Association trade group released a new study warning that the defense-industrial base needs Pentagon budgets to grow at least 5 percent per year to remain healthy and stable.
Joe Gould in Washington contributed to this report
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.