Around the world, threats to U.S. national security are converging. Our most potent antidote for dealing with these crises — hard power — is at risk not only because of our ailing defense-industrial base but because of China’s grip on our supply chains. It maintains a chokehold on U.S. military munitions and platforms that we have not broken, despite evidence of supply chain vulnerabilities and an ever-shrinking window to do so, threatening our ability to deter adversaries in the Indo-Pacific region.

The latest National Security Scorecard from data analytics firm Govini revealed countless China-based firms remain deeply embedded in Defense Department supply chains across 12 critical technologies. Consider as well as that the draft version of the Pentagon’s National Defense Industrial Strategy noted that “today’s [defense-industrial base] would be challenged to provide the required capabilities at the speed and scale necessary for the U.S. military and our allies and partners to engage and prevail in a major conflict.”

This is what happens when just-in-time defense manufacturing meets dependence on Chinese companies, not to mention firms in Taiwan that Beijing could blockade during a crisis on which many, if not all, precision weapons and modern platforms depend.

The recently passed fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act barely affects the timeline for eliminating the Pentagon’s dependence on selected Chinese companies and materials. The narrow scope and lengthy time frames of current government efforts to alleviate our supply chain dependencies send an unspoken message to Beijing: The DoD does not have, nor will it soon have, the supply base required to prosecute a long war against China. The message to Taiwan is that we can’t build the weapons and platforms needed to defend you in a protracted war without access to these at-risk supply chains.

Thankfully, there are solutions that the Pentagon and the administration can take to armor the Achilles’ heel of our defense supply chains.

First, they can focus on resiliency rather than independence, entailing the pursuit of multiple solutions to ensure the DoD has sufficient stocks — or access to the production — of the products, materials and services required for a long conflict. To build resiliency, the Pentagon can focus on increasing the size of its inventories, cultivating new second and near-shore sources, and redesigning munitions and platforms that are especially critical for an Indo-Pacific fight.

Resiliency requires assessing the true extent of China- and Taiwan-based dependencies, and remediating them.

Second, the Pentagon should ask Congress to invert its approach to how it defines, analyzes and addresses Pentagon supply chain vulnerabilities. To date, the government’s efforts have largely focused on inputs, as well as suppliers based in so-called covered countries like China. But if the government inverts its approach from inputs (e.g., rare earths) to outputs (e.g., an F-35 jet), it will address dependencies in a more holistic manner, forcing a review of the full supply chain.

Requiring the defense-industrial base to quickly conduct a bottom-up analysis by critical munition and platform that identifies each node in its supply chains — something it could readily by law do with commercial software — would establish a baseline for modeling different platform and munition inputs under different scenarios. These models would rapidly identify potential and growing risks as well as assist the DoD in proactively addressing them. They would also help avert a scenario where the DoD has to reactively scramble to address the collapse of a critical node far down in its supply chains.

Lastly, like the U.S. had during World War II with the War Production Board, someone or some organization should be in charge of these efforts. The Federal Acquisition Security Council may be the best organization to fill that role, as it would be well placed to roll up our supply chain dependencies, place them against requirements to create demand signals and determine how best to fill them.

These actions could be included by the Pentagon in its budget for the coming fiscal year — or given their urgency, a single, focused bill, an executive order, or a future emergency supplemental.

No one knows if or when tensions with China could spiral into armed conflict. But there’s no doubt that the world is becoming more dangerous. The U.S. must send a message to Beijing that we are prepared to prosecute a long war if needed. And the U.S. must also send a message to Taiwan that it will be able to support the island in a time of need. Without ending China’s chokehold on our defense supply chains, we will be hard-pressed to send either.

Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John G. Ferrari is a senior nonresident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute think tank. Ferrari previously served as a director of program analysis and evaluation for the service. Mark Rosenblatt runs Rationalwave Capital Partners, which invests in public and private technology companies.

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