Getting Past the Rhetoric: Questions for 2016 Candidates

By Luke Lorenz
Oct 28 2015 |

Every presidential candidate should answer these questions about manufacturing.

UPDATE: Not one of these questions was asked or answered in the CNBC Republican debate on October 28.

After looking into AAM’s crystal ball, we found that the candidates will speak at length tonight about the importance of manufacturing and the failures of our trade policy. Okay, there is no crystal ball. We hope this will happen because this is a classic campaign topic for every presidential contender. We’ve prepared some questions we hope to see all candidates answer about America’s greatest industrial and trade challenges.

All eyes are on China’s economy and its effect on the United States. China remains an export-driven, non-market economy and we are its chief customer leading to a record $343 billion trade deficit in 2014. Are we surrendering to China at the trade table?

The Facts: This past August, China devalued its currency in the most significant decline in two decades. The Obama Treasury Department has failed to label China a currency manipulator in 14 consecutive reports.

The practice of currency manipulation, along with other unfair trade practices such as state-owned enterprises and overcapacity in industrial sectors, has directly contributed to the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs in the United States. (Not to mention billions of dollars in tax revenue, and a massive trade deficit.)

Is it appropriate to source defense inputs in our military supply chain from China, Russia, or other potentially antagonistic countries?

AAM’s Take: America’s growing reliance on foreign supply chains for vital components of our military equipment puts our troops and our nation at risk. We depend on advanced weapon systems to give our military the advantage in 21st century warfare, but these systems increasingly rely on foreign-produced components.

Missile guidance systems, communication equipment, night vision goggles, and other essential equipment for our military now rely on foreign supply chains. For example:

  • Rare earth elements – specialty metals and minerals used in advanced technology – are now produced almost entirely in China. America closed its last rare earth element mining facility in August of this year.
  • The rockets that put our satellites into space depend on Russian engines.
  • The tubing that undergirds every Navy vessel in our fleet is no longer made in America, after our factories were undersold by international competition.
  • China’s cyberattacks, resulting in massive breaches of government and corporate secrets, not only prove their intent, but have given them access to extremely sensitive U.S. military secrets.

We cannot continue to rely on foreign nations for our military technology.  Yet, procurement provisions created to safeguard our domestic defense industrial base are sometimes ignored entirely

At what point does America's reduced manufacturing footprint affect our ability to provide our own security?

AAM’s Take: The connection between manufacturing and defense has been severed. More than 60,000 U.S. factories have closed since 2001. This erosion of industry has left America with a questionable ability to respond quickly to threats and catastrophes. Through a combination of disregard and unorganized policy responses to global economic challenges, we’ve allowed our defense industrial base – the companies that make the supplies, hardware, and weapons our armed forces use to keep our country safe – to fall into disrepair. Defense systems in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps all face major supply chain vulnerabilities.

With any luck, we hope tonight’s debate will be revealing, insightful, and enlightening on topics effecting America’s economy. AAM will continue to press 2016 presidential candidates for policy solutions to strengthen America’s manufacturing base.

Ask your candidate about these issues!