The US needs to rebuild the defense industrial base – by John Adams (The Hill – October 29, 2018)

Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Adams served more than 30 years in command and staff assignments as an Army aviator, military intelligence officer and foreign area officer in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. He is president of Guardian Six Consulting.

This month the Pentagon finally released a long-awaited report on the health of the nation’s defense industrial base. The findings were startling. Once the nation’s strength – in fact a war winner – our defense industrial base now faces an “unprecedented set of challenges.”

The report is a clear sign we need to act urgently. Just when we should be retooling for renewed great power competition, the very foundation from which we project strength is crumbling.

While the report identified five major challenges to our defense industrial base, all in need of dedicated attention, one challenge in particular – the aggressive industrial policies of competitor nations, particularly China – should cause heightened alarm.

Many of the hurdles we face to rebuilding our industrial base and supply chains are self-imposed – sequestration and ongoing budget uncertainty are prime examples – but the challenge posed by our growing dependence on competitors, or nations that could become adversaries, for critical materials will take a multi-faceted approach to reverse.

From specialized metals and alloys to printed circuit boards, our dependence on imports for materials and components with such essential applications across multiple Department of Defense programs and defense sectors can’t be allowed to deepen. For all of the value and efficiency of a laissez faire market-first approach to resource acquisition and industrial production, our non-market state-owned enterprise competitors game the system to our loss.

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