Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Whoa. Now we're outsourcing military supplies to China

We'd just love to meet the geniuses who think it's a good idea to let China equip our armed forces.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing produced a report, "Remaking American Security," written by retired Army General John Adams. He begins the report with this dire warning:
With the closing of factories across the United States and the mass exodus of U.S. manufacturing jobs to China and other nations over the past 30 years, the United States’ critically important defense industrial base has deteriorated dramatically. As a result, the United States now relies heavily on imports to keep our armed forces equipped and ready. Compounding this rising reliance on foreign suppliers, the United States also depends increasingly on foreign financing arrangements.
 Then there's this disturbing fact:
 “The United States is completely dependent on a single Chinese company for the chemical needed to produce the solid rocket fuel used to propel HELLFIRE missiles.”
Alarmed yet? If not, the Alliance for American Manufacturing reports:
  • The commercialization of rechargeable batteries has moved offshore along with new innovation capacity. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are built on complex chemistries that offer supe¬rior weight savings per unit of energy density. They last a long time during disuse and are low-maintenance. Although the original invention of the Li-ion battery took place in U.S. laboratories housed in U.S. universities funded by the federal government, the United States is now at a competitive disadvantage, relying on foreign suppliers for both current products and next generation batteries.   
  • The United States imports 91 percent of the rare earth element lanthanum, which is needed to make night-vision devices, from China. This near-total dependence creates a risk that China could withhold access to lanthanum to force up the price, inhibit a U.S. technological advantage, pressure the United States to resolve disputes on terms favorable to China, or worse, completely withhold supplies. Night-vision devices give U.S. warfighters a critical advantage in low-light operations, such as the night raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.
  • Production of high-tech magnets has migrated offshore, even though American research initially developed this important technology. Today, there is no domestic Neodymium-Iron-Boron (NdFeB) magnet producer, and 75 percent of NdFeB magnets are fabricated in China. The disappearance of a U.S. magnet industry has eroded U.S. leadership in patents and our ability to design new applications. 
Adams concludes the health of the U.S. defense industrial base is in jeopardy -- as is our national security. He writes we are vulnerable to major disruptions in foreign supplies that could be devastating. They include:
  • Poor manufacturing practices in offshore factories that produce problem-plagued products. Shoddy manufacturing could be inadvertent, could be part of a deliberate attempt to cut costs and boost profits, or could be intentionally designed to damage U.S. capabilities. Motivated by expected gains in cost, innovation, and efficiency, the Department of Defense (DoD) began a decided shift from parts made to military specifications (Mil-Spec) to commercial-off-theshelf (COTS) parts and equipment two decades ago. However, COTS parts often lack the quality control and traceability necessary to ensure that parts used in the defense supply chain meet the rigorous standards we expect of equipment vital to our national security. Faulty and counterfeit COTS parts are already taking a toll on readiness in several defense sectors. 
  • Natural disasters, domestic unrest, or changes in government that could cut or halt production and exports at foreign factories and mines.
  • Foreign producers that sharply raise prices or reduce or stop sales to the United States. These changes could be caused by political or military disputes with the United States, by the desire of foreign nations to sell to other countries, by the need to attract foreign investment and production, or by foreign nations wanting to keep more of the raw materials, parts, and finished goods they produce for their own use.
The good news is that we can turn this dire situation around. Read how here.