President should use "all available tools" to equip military and secure critical infrastructure, general and flag officers write.
Ten retired U.S. military leaders wrote to President Trump this week to support action to protect American-made steel and aluminum from foreign threats.
The general and flag officers write that the president should use "all available tools" to maintain "a strong and ready domestic manufacturing sector," including via the Section 232 national security investigations into steel and aluminum imports. Steel and aluminum are critical to both equipping the military and building critical infrastructure like bridges and the electric grid, the leaders write.
"Make no mistake, having a strong domestic industrial base is critical to our national security," said Brigadier Gen. John Adams, U.S. Army (Ret.). "If we lose the ability to make our own steel or aluminum, we could find ourselves depending on countries like China or Russia to supply our military and build our infrastructure. That means we'd have to share key intelligence and sensitive military specifications with strategic competitors. We simply cannot let this happen."
The 10 military leaders aren't the only ones urging Trump to protect America's security and factory jobs. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have written the president to urge swift action, as have steel executives, union officials and other key constituencies.
“This letter from former senior military officials makes clear the critical importance of our steel and aluminum sectors to national security," said Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers. "These warfighters know that steel and aluminum are the backbone of a strong military and a strong nation and we must be able to protect our interests."
Trump ordered the 232 investigations to determine whether foreign imports from countries like China are intentionally running American steel and aluminum plants out of business and weakening our defense base. Under this 1962 trade law, the president can order an inquiry into whether specific imports are negatively impacting U.S. economic and national security. If they’re determined to be damaging, the president can order significant safeguarding measures – an action Trump promised to do earlier this year.
"American workers produce the best product in the world and they're ready to compete, but they can't when the game is rigged," said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. "Steel and aluminum production in places like China is heavily subsidized or even government-run. President Trump should take action to level the playing field — and safeguard our security and infrastructure in the process."
That level playing field is needed now according to the military leaders who also call for “prompt action.” Since the 232 steel investigation was announced, steel imports are up 18 percent.
"It’s time to act to combat the illegal, unfair and predatory trade practices that have decimated production and employment and put our national security and critical infrastructure in peril,” said Gerard.
AAM and Adams previously voiced concerns over the role of China’s massive steel overcapacity in the report ReMaking American Security, which found that the military is shockingly vulnerable to major disruptions in the supply chain including:
- Shoddy offshore manufacturing practices resulting in problem-prone products.
- Government unrest or natural disasters that halt production and exports.
- Foreign producers that raise prices or halt sales due to political or military disputes.
To read more about increased national security weaknesses and policies to decrease threats, visit AmericanManufacturing.org.