The recently passed $886 billion national defense funding act has highlighted a potential common concern between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to arms imports, particularly from China. Despite the partisan divide on many issues, both parties have raised questions about the reliance on foreign components for U.S. military equipment.
Former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, in his book "No Trade Is Free," emphasizes the importance of the U.S. being able to manufacture its own military equipment, including high-tech weaponry. He argues that any country that cannot produce its own equipment is susceptible to interruptions in supply during times of conflict.
Greg Hayes, CEO of defense contractor Raytheon, has expressed the difficulty of decoupling from China, as the company has numerous suppliers in the country. Pulling out of China would require significant time and effort to reestablish production capabilities either domestically or in other friendly countries.
Progressive House member Ro Khanna has criticized the lack of data on American purchases of imported parts for U.S. weapons. He argues that there needs to be more oversight and transparency regarding the vulnerability of the U.S. defense materials supply chain.
Khanna's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act aims to require the Pentagon to provide details on the items and components purchased, shedding light on the extent of reliance on imports. However, the Pentagon has declined to comment on draft legislative actions.
The increased focus on U.S. supply chains for arms is partly a result of supply chain disruptions during the pandemic and disappointment in U.S.-China relations. Khanna believes that there was a lack of recognition of the vulnerability of global supply chains and a naivety regarding the challenges posed by China.
It remains to be seen how the Senate will address these concerns as the defense funding act moves forward. Khanna anticipates a new version of the bill without certain social measures attached in the coming month.
Overall, the bipartisan concern regarding the dependence on imports for U.S. military equipment reflects a growing recognition of the potential risks and vulnerabilities associated with relying on foreign suppliers.