Peter Navarro: Team Trump is protecting America’s vital manufacturing, defense industrial base from big risks

America’s manufacturing and defense industrial base – vital to ensuring our national security – is under significant threat at a time when the military capabilities of China, Russia, and our other strategic competitors are growing. This is an enormously important issue that has received far less attention in the news media than it deserves.

Fortunately, President Trump has long recognized that to be strong and secure our nation must be able to rely on U.S. companies to manufacture products needed for our national defense. He understands that we must never become dependent on foreign nations to design, produce and maintain the aircraft, ground combat vehicles, ships, munitions, components of our nuclear arsenal, and space capabilities that are critically important to our nation’s defense.

Additionally, manufacturing remains a key source of jobs and our economic strength. While President Obama was content to see manufacturing jobs exit the U.S. for other nations, President Trump’s wise America First policies are strengthening American manufacturing and creating well-paid jobs for hardworking Americans.

President Trump signed an executive order in July 2017 directing the secretary of defense to assess what must be done to strengthen our manufacturing and defense industrial base. The report giving this assessment was recently released and reveals hundreds of gaps and vulnerabilities that demand immediate attention. Under this administration, they will get that attention.

This landmark report outlines ways to harness the capabilities of industry and government to work together to defend our country effectively and efficiently, ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent frugally and wisely.

President Trump understands that that best way to deter our enemies and prevent war is for America to have the strongest military in the world – a goal he has achieved with increased investment in our nation’s defense. And he knows that if we are forced into a conflict, we must give the brave men and women in our armed forces what they need to prevail overwhelmingly.

Under the Obama administration, years of dangerous cuts in America’s defense budget put our national security at risk and failed to give members of our military what they needed to protect us.

To Make American Great Again we must Make American Manufacturing Great Again – something President Trump realized long before he declared his candidacy for the presidency. He has been acting on that since the day he entered the Oval Office.

Overregulation, too much bureaucratic red tape and outdated defense purchasing practices have made it hard for manufacturers to supply us with the vital equipment our military needs and have discouraged innovation by these suppliers.

And past administrations have allowed China and other nations to steal the intellectual property that American companies have worked years to develop.

All of this has contributed to the exodus of American jobs and American manufacturing capabilities to other nations – an exodus President Trump is reversing.

The new Defense Department assessment also identifies alarming shortages in the number of American workers needed to keep our manufacturing and defense industrial base strong and healthy. This points to the need for our country to educate and train more Americans to fill jobs – from software engineers to industrial welders – that will provide them with secure long-term employment and make our nation more secure as well.

A recent survey found nearly 73 percent of American manufacturing firms say the inability to find and retain workers with critical skills is their top challenge. This is unacceptable and must change.

To Make American Great Again we must Make American Manufacturing Great Again – something President Trump realized long before he declared his candidacy for the presidency. He has been acting on that since the day he entered the Oval Office.

And it’s important that we have multiple American manufacturers to supply our defense needs – so the Defense Department need not be dependent on a sole supplier for crucial military equipment.

Competition leads to greater efficiency and innovation by manufacturers and holds down prices – benefitting the American taxpayer. And if we are dependent on only one company to make military equipment and that company goes out of business or decides to stop making the equipment, we are in trouble.

This is not a theoretical risk – it is something we are faced with today on a number of fronts.

For example, “sole source purchasing” risk exists with large-caliber gun barrels for armored vehicles and mortar tubes, which the Army buys from only one government-run arsenal.

“Single source risk,” in which the Defense Department has only one qualified supplier, manifests itself in the production of ammonium perchlorate – a chemical widely used by the Defense Department as a propellant for rockets and missiles.

Similarly, the problem of a “fragile supplier” occurs when only one company manufactures a product. This is true in the case of the rotor blade castings required for the manufacture of a Marine helicopter capable of lifting very heavy loads. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2016.

In addition, “fragile market” risk exists for products that have no commercial applications outside of our military. This is the case with strategic radiation-hardened microelectronics – a critical component of our nuclear deterrent designed to withstand short bursts of intense radiation.

“Product security” risk threatens the physical security and cybersecurity of the manufacturing and defense industrial base. Cyberattacks on manufacturers in the defense sector are skyrocketing – nearly doubling from 2014 to 2015. You can be sure the number of these attacks will increase.

A key finding of the Defense Department assessment is that China’s increasing manufacturing dominance represents a growing risk to our military-industrial capabilities ranging from critical materials to electronics.

China’s civil-military doctrine continues to exploit areas of vulnerability through economic and cyber actions, creating a further erosion of trusted supply chains vital to manufacturing for our defense sector.

The Trump administration, with bipartisan support from the Congress, has already taken important steps to strengthen America’s manufacturing and defense industrial base.

Examples include passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, providing near-term budget stability through the 2019 fiscal year. Another example is the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes $200 million to shore-up small and medium suppliers in our submarine industrial base.

The 2018 Defense Authorization Act also provides critical modernization for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Together with actions taken under the Trade Act of 1974, these changes will help defend our national security from foreign acquisition of American intellectual property and technologies.

Recent updates to the Trump administration’s conventional arms transfer policy and unmanned aerial systems export policy also support U.S. industrial base competitiveness and strengthen international alliances and partnerships.

In addition, the Defense Department is working with the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia – our partners in the National Technology Industrial Base – to determine how to increase cooperation to address areas of mutual concern across global supply chains.

On top of these actions, the new Defense Department assessment lists a comprehensive set of actions government and manufacturers can take to work together to address identified risks and vulnerabilities across the range of hardware, software and workforce needs to maintain the technological superiority that protects our national security.

The Defense Department will move swiftly to address problems identified in its report with a series of reforms.

Title III of the Defense Production Act allows the president to direct already appropriated dollars to lower tiers of the supply chain providing defense-critical capabilities, oftentimes ones that lack a commercial market and are in considerable distress.

Title III is a critical tool for ensuring that the United States retains the type of capabilities our warfighters require, from specialized fuel cells for antisubmarine warfare to lithium seawater batteries used in the Navy’s future unmanned underwater vehicles.

A Labor Department task force on apprenticeship is already working to increase the number of Americans trained for skilled jobs needed for our national defense.

In addition, the Defense Department’s enhanced use of the National Defense Stockpile program will provide a buffer against sudden or severe shocks that would otherwise create supply disruptions for strategic and critical materials. Modernizing the arsenals, depots and public shipyards that provide for the readiness of our armed forces will ensure ongoing support for current and future national defense operations.

Together, all these actions embody one of the most important principles of the Trump administration: economic security is national security. As President Trump stated in his National Security Strategy issued last December, a vibrant domestic manufacturing sector and a robust and resilient defense industrial base are national strategic priorities of the highest order.