U.S. Loses Capability to Equip Itself for Future Conflicts

Jan. 9, 2008

The United States has lost critically needed capabilities to arm itself for future wars, the lead article in the January/February 2008 issue of Metals Service Center Institute Forward magazine reports (www.msci.org).

Furthermore, the magazine says, the Pentagon lacks the information necessary to know whether important weapons components now rely on foreign-sourced parts or materials. The military procurement system doesn’t require lower-tier contractors to report their use of foreign-sourced parts and materials, and the Defense Department isn’t interested in pursuing the question.

“The Navy,” Rear Admiral Kathleen M. Dussault, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for acquisition and logistics management said, “does not have visibility into commercial items indirectly purchased (from China) via second- and third-tier producers.” This is the case for the Pentagon as a whole, the article notes.

As a consequence, a range of essential materials, used to make everything from ordinary ammunition to propellants for missiles and components of submarines, are no longer made in the United States. In some cases, essential materials are available almost exclusively from China.

“If the Chinese wanted to play hard ball, there would be some severe consequences,” says Archibald Cox, Jr., former chief executive officer of a militarily significant company that moved through a series of transactions to China. Adds counterterrorism expert Peter Leitner, who for 21 years was a senior strategic trade adviser at the Pentagon, “It’s a form of economic warfare, and no one is really paying a whole lot of attention to what the Chinese are doing.”