US defence must minimise reliance on foreign suppliers to prevent shortages and protect national security, according to a report
The Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force has released its findings along with recommendations following a review of threats and vulnerabilities in the US defence supply chain.
In the wake of pandemic disruption, the task force was established to help the Department of Defense (DOD) develop legislative proposals that would mitigate future supply chain risks. It examined the industrial base, supply chains and their preparedness to respond to supply shocks.
The report said the pandemic had exposed the extent to which weakened US supply chains pose a risk to economic and national security.
The task force said critical shortages, such as PPE for health workers, could not be allowed to happen again, and made a series of recommendations for assurance.
Task force co-chair Representative Elissa Slotkin said PPE shortages demonstrated how the existing supply chains had failed.
“It was so clear we could never let that happen again, especially on items that are directly connected to our national security,” she said.
“That’s exactly why we launched this task force, not just to draft a report, but to write actual legislation to address vulnerabilities in our defence supply chains and make sure our military is protected from supply chain shocks down the road.”
Report recommendations included developing a department-wide risk assessment strategy for continuous monitoring and mitigation, and of using commercially available tools to map the defence supply chain within a year to gain sight of vulnerabilities.
This latter would support its advice of introducing a statutory requirement to identify parts and materials for major end-products to determine those sourced from adversarial nations, and reduce reliance on those nations.
Also on sourcing it said the department should diversify sourcing and processing of rare earth elements to minimise dependence on China, and develop alternative technologies and methods for extraction, processing and recycling.
The task force said the DOD should use its influence to improve the sector’s workforce, creating a productive partnership between it, the industry, education partners, labour, and other federal and local entities.
For instance, as the research and development was funded by the Department of Energy, and the Department of the Interior, the three Secretaries coordinate to ensure programmes include the DOD’s interests.
The report also encouraged the department’s leaders to prioritise supply chain security policy in bilateral and multilateral discussions.
Co-chair Representative Mike Gallagher said the defence-critical supply chain faces weaknesses which, if exploited, would impair the country’s ability to compete or respond to crises.
“This problem will not age well. This report makes concrete recommendations that help mitigate these risks, enhance our resilience, and better secure our defence supply chain.