A good year ago, a presidential Executive Order (E.O. 13806) mandated the completion of a study to assess the “Manufacturing Capacity, Defense Industrial Base, and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States.” According to a well-informed administration source, this defense industrial base study is now nearing completion, reports Breaking Defense.
However, as Sydney J. Friedberg Jr. writes for the publication:
“(…) the Executive Order 13806 study may come as a surprise: Instead of a sweeping agenda to restore America’s high-tech lead for future decades, the study will recommend near-term fixes to more mundane problems that could lose the US a war if one broke out tomorrow. From aging facilities to imported supplies, the defense industrial base is full of potential chokepoints in the supply chain.”
One of the “chokepoints” to which Friedberg refers is the fact that “the US depends on imports for critical materials ranging from from beryllium to titanium sponge — many of which we buy from Russia, China, or the Central Asian ‘Stans.’”
To underscore the urgency of the situation and the U.S. military’s very “real and present needs,” Friedberg invokes an image that may be familiar to ARPN followers. He writes:
“Think of it in terms of the old nursery rhyme:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
The E.O. 13806 industrial base study isn’t building any silver bullets for the US military (…) it’s about building nails.”
Our very own Dan McGroarty recently invoked the same image in a piece for Investors Business Daily, though his reference took us back to the 13th Century proverb “For want of a nail… the kingdom was lost” – as a cautionary tale that our often unnecessary over-reliance on foreign mineral resources may become our Achilles heel.
Currently, the report is nearly completed but won’t be released for a while, and any specific policy recommendations will almost certainly be subject to lively debate.
As the administration source told Breaking Defense, “(j)ust doing that analysis was a worthy endeavor, (…) [n]ow the policy question is, how many of those gaps that were identified does it make economic and strategic sense to plug? We’re going to have an interesting debate.”
Jeffery Green, president and founder of Washington, DC-based J.A. Green & Company and member of the ARPN panel of experts, however, is optimistic. As he recently wrote on Twitter:
“The coming Industrial Base E.O. study could revolutionize the approach to supply-chain security and #strategicmaterials. Stay tuned..”