Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Dependence on foreign suppliers for military equipment puts the U.S. at risk.

The United States sent a warship very close to one of China's artificial islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday, CNN reports. China is not pleased.

And while China has no military recourse at their disposal, the country does have an ace in their hand which could impact America’s national security. That ace is America’s increasing reliance on China for vital components of our military equipment.

Our Navy, and military in general, relies on advanced weapons systems to gain an advantage in 21st century warfare. As the United States has outsourced key sectors of defense production, innovation, and engineering, we now must rely on the countries in which these processes have relocated. At the top of that list is China.  

For example, it is quite likely that the ship used in the South China Sea, the USS Lassen, is equipped with components made in China.

Most hi-tech magnets and some semiconductors, which are used in missile guidance systems and communications equipment, are produced in China. China produces 90 percent of the world’s rare earth elements (REEs). REEs are specialized materials used in modern technology for their unique properties that allows them to operate in intense heat or conduct energy at incredible speeds.

The last U.S. producer of REEs, the Mountain Pass Mine, closed in August of this year. Brigadier Gen. John Adams (U.S. Army, Retired), author of Remaking American Security, wrote in The Hill:

“America’s approach to REE production has been haphazard, unfocused, and minimalist. In effect, our heads are buried in the sand. The end of production at Mountain Pass Mine should serve as a warning; the time to shore up our defense supply chains is now, not when it’s too late.”

The naval ships and surveillance planes that we use in military exercises cannot be reliant on China for essential equipment to complete the mission. That is a dependence that we cannot afford.