Report: US military too reliant on foreign suppliers


By STEVE BENNISH | Dayton (Ohio) Daily News | Published: May 14, 2013

DAYTON, Ohio — A new report said urgent action should be taken to reduce the U.S. military’s dependence on foreign suppliers for raw materials, parts, and finished products needed to defend the nation.

Remaking American Security: Supply Chain Vulnerabilities & National Security Risks Across the U.S. Defense Industrial Base,” was authored by retired Brigadier Gen. John Adams and commissioned and funded by the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a domestic industry advocacy group that’s a partnership between U.S. manufacturers and the United Steelworkers union.

Released on Capitol Hill May 8 with remarks from Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, the report cited examples of critical singly-sourced items from nations such as China.

This issue isn’t new. The Department of Defense files an annual report with Congress that surveys U.S. military industrial choke points, gaps and vulnerabilities as supply chains become globalized.

A Pentagon spokesman said Friday the military is reviewing the report.

“The Department of Defense is reviewing the study at this time. While we have not reviewed the report in its entirety, we have noticed some inconsistencies with our own research,” said Mark Wright, Department of Defense spokesman.

The Department’s Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress in 2012 said, “the Department has already identified some critical and fragile niches that require intensive monitoring, even on the heels of a decade of robust defense spending,” calling the effort one of the Department’s “priority initiatives in the current era of constrained budgets.”

“America’s vulnerability today is frightening,” retired general Adams said. “This report is a wake-up call for America to pay attention to the growing threat posed by the steady deterioration of our defense industrial base. Excessive and unwise outsourcing of American manufacturing to other nations weakens America’s military capability.”

Examples include:

• The U.S. is completely dependent on a single Chinese company for the chemical needed to produce solid rocket fuel for widely-used HELLFIRE missiles. As current U.S. supplies diminish, the military will be reliant on the Chinese supplier to provide a critical chemical—butanetriol—in quantities needed to maintain the missile system.

• The commercialization of rechargeable batteries has moved offshore along with new innovation capability. Lithium-ion batteries, built on complex chemistry, were invented in federally-funded U.S. labs, but the U.S now relies on foreign suppliers for both current products and next generation batteries.

• The U.S. imports 91 percent of the rare earth element lanthanum, needed to make night-vision devices, from China. The near-total dependence creates a risk that China could withhold access to force up the price and inhibit a U.S. technological advantage.

• Production of high-tech magnets has migrated offshore, even though U.S. research initially developed the technology. There is no domestic Neodymium-Iron-Boron magnet producer, and 75 percent of the magnets are made in China.

“Allowing our defense industrial base to keep shrinking and our dependence on foreign manufactures to keep growing will make America weaker, less secure, and less safe,” Alliance for American Manufacturing president Scott Paul said.

United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard said the report shows that without a solid economic base of manufacturing, the U.S. cannot hope to retain its status as a preeminent world power, either economically or militarily.

Gerard cited statistics showing that since 2000 the U.S. lost more than 31 percent of its manufacturing jobs.

“While I am disturbed by some of the trends highlighted in General Adams’ report, I am encouraged that we as a nation are starting to more closely examine this issue,” Rep. Ryan said.

Said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown: “The reliance on foreign companies for military supplies not only hurts American manufacturing and competitiveness, but also poses risks to our national security.”

The report includes recommendations including increasing long-term federal investment in high-tech industries, particularly those involving advanced research, enforcing laws to support the defense industrial base and developing domestic sources of key natural resources.