National military-industrial capability

Military-industrial complex in the US.

In general, the American military-industrial base is very large and highly capable covering the full range of military equipment and services. Many of the companies are well-known international giants.  

However, in September 2018, the US Government inter-agency Task Force, headed by the Department of Defense (DoD) released the unclassified document “Report Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States”.  It was a year-long study on the domestic industrial base required to provide vital components and raw materials for the US military.

The document was commissioned a year ago in an Executive Order 13806 of the US President Donald Trump. 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. In fact, the report is the most thorough critical look at the military industrial base undertaken since the early years of the 1950’s Cold War buildup.

The declassified version of the report is quite shocking, citing a laundry list of 300 “gaps” or vulnerabilities in the US military industrial base. According to the report the US national economy is no longer able to support the most basic essentials of a national defense, a direct consequence of the economies of globalization and offshore outsourcing. The report 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. 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. In addition, the report enumerate number of vulnerabilities, lacks and bottlenecks in the American industrial base.

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. The report lays major blame on the dependence of US weapons companies in vital components outsourced to the Peoples’ Republic of China, the country that the Pentagon’s latest Defense Policy Review cites, along with Russia, as America’s greatest strategic threat.

The Pentagon defense industrial base report is an attempt to go behind the surface of the dozen or so giant military contractors such as Boeing or Raytheon to the tens of thousands of smaller companies which provide critical sub-components to determine the state of vulnerability in event of a war.

The US Administration plans to address the 300 gaps with certain immediate measures including closing key supply-chain gaps and using Defense Authorization funds to expand key domestic manufacturing capacities such as lithium seawater batteries or cutting-edge fuel cells for the Navy’s future unmanned, underwater vehicles. It will also reinvigorate the 1939 Defense Stockpile Program for foreign-produced limited-source strategic and critical materials.

The main conclusion of the report is that, “China represents a significant and growing risk to the supply of materials deemed strategic and critical to the US national security.” This also explains why the focus of the ongoing Trump Administration trade war against China in fact concentrates on pressuring China to abandon its Made in China 2025 agenda with focus on making China dominant in advanced technologies over the coming decades.

Military-industrial complex in China and in Russia.

The comparable situations in China and Russia are very different from that of the US. Because both countries have been historically as targets of manifold sanctions and pressure measures from the outside, they have had a great national need to develop high-rate self-sufficiency.

On the other hand, as seen in the assessing of strategic resources, both China and Russia have an extensive range of all key strategic resources available in their own countries.

In addition, both countries have determinedly developed their military-industrial complex to meet all national requirements, from elementary military material to hi-tech products and production capabilities covering all necessary areas and branches of military services (nuclear/conventional, army, navy, air forces, space forces, strategic/tactical weapons, defensive/offensive weapons, auxiliary services, etc.).