Washington, D.C., United States—In the coming weeks, the Department of Defense (DoD) will release a study examining the U.S. military’s dependence on foreign countries.
The study will focus on critical military materials and their providers. The ultimate aim will be to limit or eliminate dependence on foreign firms or countries that could prove adversaries in the future. A secondary—and consequent—objective will be to empower the U.S. defense industry. The Trump administration has been bellowing its “America First” intentions. These pronouncements seem to go hand-in-hand with the Pentagon’s intention to rely more on U.S. manufacturers.
The American military seems particularly reliant on Chinese firms. With economic and military tensions rising between the two countries, it becomes ever more important to cut any dependence that might prove inconvenient in case of conflict.
It appears that the U.S. military depends on foreign suppliers for hundreds of critical materials. The report identifies microdigital and microelectronic parts as especially vulnerable. Benign by themselves, these components serve a critically important role in advanced communication systems, satellites, cruise missiles, and drones. Furthermore, the U.S. has become over-reliant on China for rare earth minerals—which China has managed to secure largely by neo-imperialist projects in Africa. Such precious minerals are used in countless every day and special devices. From cellphones to computer hardware to ballistic missiles, rare minerals are a very sought after.
The intent will be “to ensure a robust, resilient, secure and ready manufacturing and defense industrial base,” said Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, a Pentagon representative.
The Pentagon is especially concerned with potential “kill switches” in U.S. military hardware. Presumably, such switches would be triggered in case of a Sino-American conflict, debilitating not only military equipment but also private communications, thus sowing panic in the civilian population.
Only recently, the U.S. Department of Commerce sanctioned 44 Chinese companies for being a national-security threat. The sanctions would limit the Chinese companies’ ability to access materials with a high-security tag (for example, telecommunication gear, lasers, high-tech sensors, etc.).
On a similar vein, the Pentagon’s new cyberwarfare strategy accuses China of stealing public and private sector data in order to gain an economic advantage. It would seem reasonable, then, that the two activities work in conjunction to amplify their effect (i.e., stealing intelligence from U.S. defense companies to develop better components that are then sold to the U.S. military).
President Trump ordered the study after concerns about the state of the American defense industry. The report will keep the weaknesses in the U.S. military supply chain classified.