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US lawmakers to scrutinise threats to defence supply chain

The US House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has formed a special panel to identify threats to the US defence industry’s supply chain and recommend legislation to minimise those vulnerabilities.

The US Department of Defense wants to bolster domestic manufacturing of microelectronics. (Getty Images)

The US Department of Defense wants to bolster domestic manufacturing of microelectronics. (Getty Images)

The creation of the bipartisan Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force comes in response to congressional concerns that the US defence industry is too dependent on foreign countries, especially China, for key parts and materials.

Those worries intensified early in the coronavirus pandemic last year, when the United States had trouble obtaining urgently needed Chinese-made medical supplies. Lawmakers fear another pandemic-like emergency, or a heated conflict with China could cut off vital supplies to the US defence industry.

“We cannot afford to have our defence industrial base experience the kind of supply chain disruption that our medical sector experienced during the early days of the pandemic,” said Representative Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, who will co-chair the task force with Representative Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan Democrat. “We cannot afford to leave the Chinese Communist Party with the ability to turn on and turn off supply chains critical to our national defence at will.”

The task force will conduct its study over the next three months, and its review will include consulting with current and former executive branch officials, Slotkin told reporters on 10 March. Its findings are expected to influence the HASC’s drafting of the fiscal year 2022 defence authorisation bill later this year.

The task force does not want to write “another 300-page report that sits on a shelf”, Slotkin said. “The goal is a relatively short, if we can do it, 20-page report that specifically focuses on the levers that we have to pull in the legislative branch.”

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