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Uncertain budgets, a broken procurement system and an unfair trade environment have eroded the United States’ defense industrial base to levels at which national security could be at risk, a long-awaited White House report released Thursday concluded, bringing new urgency to problems that have worried acquisition experts for years.
The report states that “all facets of the manufacturing and defense industrial base are currently under threat” and that there are entire “industries near domestic extinction,” forcing the Pentagon to look overseas for help. Top procurement officials said the findings underscored the need to think more critically about the U.S. military’s supply chain and its relationship with defense contractors.
“Without a robust, secure and resilient industrial base, you cannot provide lethality for the warfighter,” said Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. “Our industrial base is only as strong as our Department’s relationship with industry.”
In a Thursday evening phone call, Lord and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing Eric Chewning declined to provide an exact dollar figure for how much extra defense funding would be behind the effort, and they shied away from directly answering questions about whether new subsidies for defense firms could be part of the solution.
But a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss how the White House would respond, described targeted cash infusions designed to shore up particular areas of weakness, including $70m for a company that makes gun components and extra funding for Abrams tank parts.
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