National Security: It's not the light fixtures, it's the whole manufacturing base we're talking about
Yesterday, we reported on the U.S. Air Force filing a waiver for military housing components. It seems the Air Force can’t find any domestic suppliers for basic inputs like towel racks, door stops, and screws, and is seeking overseas suppliers.
Brian Spegele at the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report reported the story, sarcastically suggesting our concern of “how Chinese-made light fixtures compromise national security.”
Unfortunately, Spegele missed our point.
According to the Air Force waiver, the U.S. no longer manufactures such basic consumer goods as screws, towel racks, and ceiling fans. But Spegele forgets that we’re also losing ground in key high-tech sectors needed for national security.
As the Congressionally mandated U.S.-China Commission points out on page 19 of its latest annual report: the U.S. trade deficit with China in advanced technology products soared to $72.5 billion in 2009.
The U.S. competes head-head with China on a startling array of goods: everything from auto parts, machine tools, and energy-intensive industries like steel and glass, all the way up to robotics and semi-conductors. This is the heart of our manufacturing base and its value chains.
Spegele can scoff about America factories not producing nuts and bolts, but even he admits that Chinese manufacturers are “increasingly looking to move up the value chain.”
So, today it’s brackets, light fixtures, and microwave ovens. But in a decade, will the U.S. still have a high-tech manufacturing base?
Instead of laughing about "how Chinese-made light fixtures compromise national security," the WSJ needs to explain how the U.S. can hold on to its remaining share of machine tools, robotics, wind turbines, solar panels, semiconductors, and high-speed rail engines. We're waiting for them to put forward a sensible national manufacturing strategy that will enable the U.S. to compete in some of the key industries of the 21st Century that do indeed impact national security.
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