On 22 July, the US House of Representatives’ Defense Critical Supply China Task Force published a 23-page report detailing its findings and recommendations. Unveiled in March, the task force came as part of a larger intergovernmental effort to address the shortcomings in US supply chain security made obvious by the Covid-19 pandemic which extend well beyond just health infrastructure.
After nine roundtable discussions which involved defense officials, industry leaders and other experts, the bipartisan task force of four democrats and four republicans made the following recommendations for the Department of Defense (DOD):
- DOD must treat supply chain security as a defense strategic priority.
- DOD must have visibility on the defense supply chain to understand its vulnerabilities and develop risk mitigation strategies.
- DOD (and the United States more broadly) needs to reduce reliance on adversaries for resources and manufacturing.
- DOD must use its influence to facilitate workforce improvement by creating a productive partnership between the Department, industry, education partners, labor, and other federal and local entities.
- DOD should strengthen the ability to leverage close ally and partner capabilities through the National Technology and Industrial Base (NTIB).
- DOD should deploy the full range of American innovation to secure the supply chains involving rare earth elements.
Overall, the task force’s conclusions are similar to those proposed previously by other bodies tasked with addressing the same issue. The Department of Defense followed up on the report with a news release on 30 July, acknowledging its findings and featuring commentary from deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy Jesse Salazar.
“For more than 50 years, the U.S. has pursued efficiency in its supply chains, and the last year has crystallized the need to build supply chain resilience into our thinking, as well. […] The White House, Congress, the DOD, our interagency partners and industry stand united behind strengthening our defense industrial base and working in common cause with our closest allies and partners.”
Some recently unveiled DoD projects tackling supply chain issues include a DARPA program aimed to improve America’s ability to process rare earth elements within the United States. The full task force report is available here.