MANUFACTURING

JUST IN: Army Aims to Break China's Grip on Critical Materials

2/1/2022
By Meredith Roaten

iStock photo

The Army is ramping up its efforts to counter U.S. reliance on China's supply of critical items, the commanding general of Army Materiel Command said Feb. 1.

 

AMC focuses on providing logistics, sustainment and materiel readiness solutions from installations to the tactical edge.

 

The Army’s organic industrial base modernization plan — introduced in the fall of 2020 — should encourage healthy supply chains for items such as personal protective equipment, microelectronics and rare earth minerals, said Gen. Edward Daly.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted existing vulnerabilities in these areas and the United States' dependence on China, he noted. That includes semiconductor shortages which have hindered the global economy.

 

China has a near monopoly in the mining of rare earth minerals, which are critical for the Pentagon's weapon systems, among other U.S. products.

 

“It's no secret — China's influence over the supply chain and really the Pacific [region's] influence over the supply chain — well, we're trying to reverse that,” Daly told reporters at a Defense Writers Group event.

  

The Army’s $16 billion effort includes projects for procuring next-generation production capabilities for technologies such as robotics, computer program logic, and streamlined engineering and machining tools.

  

In the future, the organic industrial base — which includes U.S. military arsenals and ammunition plants — is going to be better equipped to compete with Chinese and other foreign production, Daly said.

 

“We know exactly what's gone offshore and our intent is to bring some of those into the organic industrial base to reduce vulnerability over time,” Daly said.

 

In coming weeks, he plans to brief Army senior leaders and lawmakers on the specifics of the modernization plan for the next 15 years.

 

“It's updating not only the facilities, the processes, the technologies, the robotics, but also really retraining the workforce and realigning the workforce so that they can remain relevant and essential and critical to the process,” he said.

 

Army Materiel Command is working with advisors such as the Defense Business Board and Defense Science Board, and other government agencies on these issues, he noted.

 

“A whole bunch of organizations within the government are working with the corporate sector … over the next five to seven years to bring some of those capabilities — production and manufacturing capabilities — back into the organic industrial base as well as the U.S. corporate sector,” Daly said. 

 

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