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Is a Manufacturing Revival a National Security Necessity?

Posted By Jeff Moad, July 31, 2012 at 4:02 PM, in Category: Industrial Policy

Arguments in favor of stronger national policies aimed at strengthening domestic manufacturing industries have, for the most part, been made on economic grounds. As a leading engine of research and development and generator of jobs, robust supply networks, and wealth, manufacturing must be supported by coordinated and forward-looking government policies. That's been the argument increasingly made by organizations including Manufacturing Executive's Manufacturing Leadership Council.

But a report issued this week makes a different argument in favor of a strong and coordinated national manufacturing policy: That a robust manufacturing industry is critical if the US--or any country--is to position itself to quickly recover from increasingly devastating disasters. The report, authored by post- 9/11 Assitant to the President for Homeland Security Tom Ridge and sponsored by the Alliance for American Manufacturing, makes a series of recommendations, including more aggressive enforcement of trade laws, federal procurement policies that favor domestic content, and investments in manufacturing workforce development.

The report, "Preparing for 21st Century Risks: Revitalizing American Manufacturing to Protect, Respond, and Recover," says the frequency of what it calls "500-year events" such as Hurricane Katrina and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami is accelerating due to factors such as surging population, aging public infrastructure, and increasing dependence on resources such as the Internet and supply networks. Add in the effects off climate change, terrorists, and rogue states and, "The 21st Century risk environment is begetting an alarming trend in which the co-called hyper-consequential "500-year" event is becomong more and more commonplace," the report states.

In light of that increased national security risk, the report says, it is unwise to rely on offshore sources of materials such as high performance concrete, steel, and medicines that would be necessary to both prevent and recover from such disasters.

"Unfortunately, at its own peril, the U.S. has become dangerously reliant on foreign suppliers of products, materials, and technologies that are critical to our ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from manmade and naturally occuring disasters," the report says.

Other recommendates contained in the report include signficant investments in public infrastructure such as roads and bridges using domestic materials and components as well as a comprehensive risk assessment to determine current vulnerabilities in the country's manufacturing base.

Do you agree that strenthening the manufacturing industry is a national security as well as an economic issue?

Category: Industrial Policy
Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit


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