In geopolitics events are rarely what they seem to be. This is especially true when we look more closely at the otherwise bizarre “war” launched this spring under the guise of trade war, supposedly redressing America’s huge annual balance of trade deficits, the most extreme being that with China. The true driver behind Washington’s otherwise inexplicable tariff war attacks on especially China make sense when we view them through the prism of a new Administration report on the defense industrial base of the United States.
In early October a US Government inter-agency Task Force, headed by the Department of Defense (DoD) released the unclassified part of a year-long study on the domestic industrial base required to provide vital components and raw materials for the US military. Titled “Report Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States,” the Interagency Task Force document was commissioned a year ago in a little-noted Executive Order 13806 of the US President.
The report is the first such detailed analysis of the adequacy or lack of, of the industrial supply chain that feeds vital components to the US Military in recent years.
The 300 Gaps
The declassified version of the report is shocking enough. It cites a laundry list of 300 “gaps” or vulnerabilities in the US military industrial base. What it reveals in stark detail is a national economy no longer able to support the most basic essentials of a national defense, a direct consequence of the economies of globalization and offshore outsourcing. It details dramatic shortages of skilled workers in areas such as machine tooling, welding, engineering. Vital machinery such as numerically-controlled machine tools must be imported, most from Germany, which has not the best relations with Washington at present. Many of the small, specialized suppliers of key sub-components are single-source suppliers many on the brink of insolvency owing to US Budget uncertainties in recent years. And the US defense industry is dependent on China for virtually all its rare earth metals. Since the 1980’s US domestic mining of the metals has virtually collapsed for economic reasons as suppliers turned to China for far cheaper sources. Today 81% of world rare earth metals needed in military equipment,