New Report: U.S. Too Dependent on Foreign Suppliers in Crises

Posted by scapozzola on 07/25/2012

Revitalizing American Manufacturing called “Urgent National Priority.”

New report by former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and former Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security Robert B. Stephan sees the U.S. as too dependent on foreign suppliers in crises.


Washington, DC.  The United States is at risk of being dangerously unprepared for serious emergencies because of the offshoring of critical manufacturing sectors and a reliance on foreign suppliers for products needed in the wake of catastrophic events.  According to a groundbreaking report released today by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), the U.S. must revitalize its manufacturing capacity to reduce such vulnerability.

The report was co-authored by Gov. Tom Ridge, the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Col. Robert B. Stephan (USAF Retired), a former Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection.

“There is a direct nexus between a strong domestic manufacturing sector and America’s ability to prevent, mitigate, recover from, and rebuild quickly in the wake of catastrophic events,” said Ridge.  “Revitalizing America’s domestic manufacturing capacity must become a clear and urgent national priority at all levels of government and among industry leaders.”

The report illustrates the growing frequency of major catastrophic events, man-made and natural, as well as new threats like cyber attacks and pandemics.  It contains specific recommendations for restoring the nation’s internal capacity to address emergencies, including revitalized manufacturing, investment in America’s infrastructure using U.S.-made materials, strengthened public-private collaboration, and enforcement of trade laws.

The United States now relies on foreign suppliers for everything from steel, cement, batteries, and critical high-technology components to every day medical supplies such as antibiotics and penicillin.  The resultant risks include not having access to needed materials and products, delayed delivery times, and the poor quality of some imported products.  These problems are becoming more noteworthy given the fragility of the nation’s aging infrastructure.

The report is the first comprehensive analysis of America’s growing reliance on global suppliers – many of whom may not have the best interests of the United States at heart in a time of crisis, or those who cannot meet demand quickly in times of emergency, given the complexity of the global supply chain.  

“Relying on a potentially hostile trading partner in a time of need puts our national security at risk,” the report states.  “There are also many important vulnerabilities associated with the structural fragility of our infrastructure nodes and systems, many of which are at or near the end of their projected operational life spans and in need of a thorough overhaul.”

China, for example, produced five times the amount of steel that U.S. companies did in 2008, and Chinese cement was used in construction on half of American home foundations prior to the recent recession.  Today, no U.S. plant produces the key ingredients for antibiotics, making the nation more vulnerable to pandemics and bioterrorism attacks.

“The nation’s worn out infrastructure is the soft underbelly that provides an inviting target for attacks that can have a widespread, devastating impact,” said Stephan.  “Hardening our critical infrastructure is key to preventing and mitigating disastrous events such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters concerning power plants, pipelines, and transportation systems.”

The report recommends taking a two-track approach to reduce vulnerabilities and to build the capacity to respond and recover quickly and efficiently in the aftermath of a catastrophic disaster.  Some recommendations include:

•    Develop a plan to make the restoration of a strong American manufacturing sector a key component of both national and economic security strategies.

•    Reinvest in America’s infrastructure, using U.S.-made materials.

•    Incentivize the revitalization of American manufacturing, including the use of domestic-content preferences that maximize the power of federal procurement funds.

•    Enforce trade laws to ensure a level playing field for U.S manufacturers and their workers facing unfair competition.

•    Invest in the American workforce to ensure we have the trained workers needed to rebuild our infrastructure and work in a larger, more modern manufacturing sector.

“Reliable domestic supply chains could help mitigate the risk associated with our current over reliance on long-lead-time offshore supplies and suppliers regarding those products and materials critical to supporting response and recovery requirements,” the report asserts.

Ridge and Stephan say that revitalizing American manufacturing must be a “clear and urgent national priority since we are losing manufacturing capacity with each passing day.”  They add that the “21st Century risk environment poses perhaps the most significant set of challenges we have yet had to face.”

“This report should serve as a wake-up call for action,” said Scott Paul, the Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), which commissioned the report.  “We must take concrete steps now to insource our preparedness capabilities.” 
Adds Paul, “Unfortunately, not enough has changed since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and even since Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.  Tragically, we’ve seen a further decline in America’s manufacturing capacity, even while new risks are emerging.  This report underscores just how critical it is to the safety of the American people to rebuild our industrial base now.”

Paul concludes, “We may not be able to predict when catastrophic events will occur, but we can do much to ensure that America is equipped to prepare for, respond to, and minimize the impact when disaster strikes.”



Anonymous wrote 1 year 42 weeks ago

The biggest problem

The biggest problem is we are not getting enough kids into colleges in STEM. Even a machinist needs to know some math. Yet the Republicans want to kill public education and send every kid to a religious school with vouchers for an education bereft of science. How is that any different than the religious based schools in Iran? America is entering a Dark Ages due to a lack of scientific curiosity and training.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago


Dear Government of Washington, DC,

I totally agree with the scapozzola Blogs, and the Washington, DC Government must take immediate ACTION, and start giving incentives to all manufactures in every field and type of product to re-start MANUFACTURING in the USA.

You must enforce special education programs in advanced technology to the reach of all American population so they can be able to gain all the skills necessary to work in all the industries at all different levels to bring back America to its previous success and to move forward this country to a path of greatness and prosperity.

The manipulation of the currency in China will continue, it will not listen to any other country in the World as China has already set its path in the Wold economy, and now from what I see in my trips to China is that its Government will go to any means to gain the World Economic Supremacy, and even planning to dump the US Dollars as the international currency for business. China has already started its quest to do business in its own currency with some of the biggest economies in the World, and its strategy is to gain the support of most of the countries on all continents to achieve it. So, please wake up WASHINGTON, DC., take ACTION before is very late.

This is my comment of the reality that America is facing, and I really hope that the leaders of the USA open their eyes and see what is coming if they don't act quickly. Sincerely, a USA citizen.

Related recent Blogs

@KeepitMadeinUSA on Twitter