The devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing recovery efforts stand as a stark reminder that America’s critical infrastructure – our electric grid, transportation systems, nuclear power plants, water infrastructure and treatment plants, and petroleum pipelines – as well as key population centers, remain inherently vulnerable.
While we cannot predict when weather-related, man-made, or other events will occur, we can certainly take steps to prepare for them in advance. Critical to this preparation is a robust, diverse, and resilient domestic manufacturing sector.
In the coming days, impacted states, cities, and towns will struggle to recover and rebuild from Hurricane Sandy. Central to the rebuilding effort will be America’s manufacturing sector – providing glass, cement, steel, iron, and a range of manufactured products, like drywall, heating and cooling units, and electrical components.
The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) recently asked two respected experts on homeland security and preparedness – Governor Tom Ridge and Col. Robert B. Stephan – to examine the direct nexus between a strong domestic manufacturing sector and America’s ability to prevent, mitigate, recover from, and rebuild quickly in the wake of catastrophic events.
They concluded that the deterioration and offshoring of America’s industrial base is becoming more apparent with each passing day, leaving new national security and preparedness concerns in its path. In short, we are becoming too reliant on global suppliers (many of whom may not have our best interests at heart in a time of crisis), along with a highly complex and vulnerable global supply chain needed to bolster our weak points or come to our rescue in the midst of an emergency.
In their analysis, Governor Ridge and Col. Stephan take an in-depth look at recent disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Japan Earthquake and Fukishima Nuclear Reactor Disaster of 2011. They also provide a snapshot of several manufacturing sectors, including steel, water, and the electric grid, which are critical to disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.
While America’s immediate focus in the coming days will rightly be on the health and safety of those impacted by Hurricane Sandy, it will also highlight potential vulnerabilities that merit increased attention for the future.