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House Armed Services Committee’s Bipartisan Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force Releases Findings and Recommendations

On the heels of the recently-released White House 100-Day Supply Chain report, momentum to strengthen U.S. supply chains is building.

On July 22, 2021 the House Armed Services Committee’s bipartisan Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force, chartered in March of 2021 to “review the industrial base supply chain to identify and analyze threats and vulnerabilities,” released its final report, which includes key findings and policy recommendations.

Co-chaired by Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), the task force convened a series of round tables with with experts and stakeholders to identify

“1) the processes by which DOD analyzes supply chain vulnerabilities and develops mitigation strategies; 

(2) DOD’s processes to prioritize and mitigate identified vulnerabilities; and 

(3) the steps Congress and others can take to help build resilience against future shocks to the supply chain, both in the near term with respect to selected cases, and over the longer term, leveraging the lessons learned from the initial actions.”

The report includes six legislative recommendations task force members will submit as amendments for the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) full committee mark up.

Among them, most notably from an ARPN perspective, were the following:

“DOD must treat supply chain security as a defense strategic priority. Although DOD conducts assessments for critical supplies and is required by section 2509 of title 10, United States Code, to establish a framework to mitigate risk in the acquisition process, it lacks a comprehensive strategy for the entire supply chain across the Department and the services. The Task Force recommends a statutory requirement for a Department-wide risk assessment strategy and system for continuous monitoring, assessing, and mitigating risk in the defense supply chain.  

DOD (and the United States more broadly) needs to reduce reliance on adversaries for resources and manufacturing. The defense supply chain presents a national security risk: a significant amount of material in the Defense Industrial Base is sole-sourced from the People’s Republic of China. With the requirement for a strategic framework and illuminating the supply chain, the Department must use this information to work with industry, allies, and partner nations to lessen the reliance on the People’s Republic of China. The Task Force recommends a statutory requirement to identify supplies and materials for major end items that come from adversarial nations and implement a plan to reduce reliance on those nations.

DOD should strengthen the ability to leverage close ally and partner capabilities through the National Technology and Industrial Base (NTIB). The NTIB is an underutilized forum and should be leveraged to shape policy and partnerships with allies. To reduce reliance on adversaries and expand partnerships, the NTIB will need to help shape global policy. The Task Force recommends updating statutory authority to emphasize the value of a broad collaboration with the NTIB allies beyond acquisition, to strengthen the alliance; directing the NTIB Council to identify particular policies and regulations that could be expanded to the NTIB allies, in order to use the NTIB as a test bed for closer international cooperation and supply chain resiliency; and authorizing an NTIB “International Council” to harmonize industrial base and supply chain security policies. The NTIB countries and other close allies and partners undoubtedly face similar challenges with over-reliance on Chinese and Russian suppliers. Effective policy to reduce the associated supply chain vulnerabilities requires meaningful, sustained dialogue and collaboration. Accordingly, the Task Force encourages the Department’s leaders to prioritize supply chain security policy in bilateral and multilateral discussions. 

DOD should deploy the full range of American innovation to secure the supply chains involving rare earth elements. This includes diversifying the source of rare earths, minimizing dependence on sources and processes in the People’s Republic of China, seeking global solutions by seeking agreements and collaboration with allies and partners, and increasing relevant capability in the United States. Developing alternative technologies and methods for extraction, processing, and recycling in support of diversification is critical. The Task Force notes research and development is funded by the Department of Energy and Department of Interior and recommends a requirement for the Secretary of Defense to coordinate with both the Secretaries of Energy and Interior to ensure research and development includes the DOD’s interest.”

The Task Force stresses the common ground between their own findings and recommendations and those included in the Administration’s 100-Day Supply Chain report, including improved communication between stakeholders, and leveraging cooperation with allies and partners, in particular in the framework of the NTIB. From the task force report:

“Where on-shoring is not feasible or not advantageous, the authors encourage resilience through ‘ally and friend-shoring,’ a construct the Task Force Members endorse. The United States can expand the capacity and capability of the domestic DIB.”

Against mounting pressures, there is hope that the House task force report, coupled with the findings of the White House’s 100-Day Supply Chain report, will create sufficient momentum to translate recommendations into actual policy, programs and projects to address the nation’s deep shortfalls in Critical Mineral supply.

The full task force report – including detailed findings and recommendations – can be found here.

And for a handy compilation of our recent coverage of the 100-Day Supply Chain report, click here.