OPINION: Fix the vulnerable defense industrial base
A few weeks ago, the Baotou Rare Earths Products Exchange got off the ground in China. What’s that, you ask?
A very informative video. But not mentioned is the fact that these rare earths have all sorts of military applications, as well. They go into high-tech magnets, which go into everything from missiles and tanks to aircraft carriers. And that makes it very problematic that a foreign competitor – who might not have the American military’s best interests at heart – controls most of the world’s supply.
Those eroded links in the U.S. military supply chain are precisely what spurred the compilation of Remaking American Security, a report commissioned last year by the Alliance for American Manufacturing and prepared by Brig. Gen. John Adams (U.S. Army, Ret.). The whole thing remains pertinent today, and, to that effect, Adams penned an opinion summarizing its points in The Hill:
U.S. strategy has long been undergirded by technology. When the commander in chief sends U.S. forces into battle, they have weapons, platforms, and other gear that can outperform any competitor. And it’s our obligation as American citizens to ensure that our nation’s warfighters retain that technological advantage.
An underappreciated fact, however, is that the maintenance of this advantage is directly related to the strength of the U.S. defense industrial base. A collection of private firms large and small, these companies provide the military with its equipment, from warplanes and precision-guided missiles to uniforms and night vision devices.
Assuredly, the Department of Defense understands the importance of its own health. The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review stated that “U.S. innovations in warfighting, which have provided key capability advantages…are built on the continued strength of our defense industrial base.” And several programs within the Pentagon are already underway to preserve that strength. But the sheer number of demands placed on DOD — not to mention the stresses of sequestration and budget uncertainty — means that a lot of work is still left to be done.
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