On October 5, the White House released a 139-page report, "Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States."  The report had been originally due to be completed in April, but the deadline was extended, due to the importance of the study and the involvement of the Defense Department, the Commerce Department, the Treasury Department and the White House in researching and writing it.

The report is unclassified (there is a Classified Action Plan which calls for a further Defense Department study on industrial base requirements for military force modernization) and is well-worth reading in its entirety.  It is the most comprehensive assessment of the US manufacturing sector by the US Government in 65 years–since President Eisenhower conducted the Solarium Project to prepare for the Cold War.  Needless to say, it is not a pretty picture.  From 1979-2017, the country lost 7.1 million manufacturing jobs, with more than 5 million lost since 2000.  

The report pinpoints many national security vulnerabilities as the result of the out-sourcing of our manufacturing base.  Rare earth and other strategic materials vital to defense production, space research and high-tech manufacturing outside the defense sector are all imported.  Many vital production facilities for the defense sector rely on one producer, or rely on firms that are facing bankruptcy.  STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are declining.  Highly skilled workers are reaching retirement age, and firms are finding it nearly impossible to recruit and train younger replacements.  

The report is a call to arms, for a revival of the nation's manufacturing sector, through improved STEM education, capital investment in choke points, and a launching of apprenticeship programs, to encourage young generation men and women to seek jobs in the manufacturing sector that can provide a middle class standard of living without the need for a four-year college degree and post-graduate degrees.

President Trump signed Executive Order 13806 on July 21, 2017, commissioning the study.  It is a start to reviving the US industrial base, not as some Fortress America, but as a step towards reversing a policy of globalization and out-sourcing that has gone on for 40 years and has led to a hollowing out of our production.  This will not end the existing globalized supply chain, but will provide a road map for specific actions which, over time, can restore US productivity.  Coupled with the long-promised investment in infrastructure, it's a good starting point.  Let's see how the Administration and Congress translate this study into actual policy.


This entry was posted in Harper. Bookmark the permalink.