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Why Is the US Military Still Dependent on China?

The defense industrial base continues to depend on a Chinese supply chain.

Why does the US Department of Defense still find itself dependent on China? Despite years of efforts to reduce reliance on Beijing for raw materials, semiconductors, and other crucial supply chain items, the United States remains entangled in a web of weapons systems and equipment supply chains with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Some Success in Reducing Reliance on China

Liberty Nation News has reported that the defense industrial base has been connected to Chinese companies, relying on a balance between geopolitical tensions and tenuous commercial relationships with CCP suppliers. However, the DOD must identify the suppliers and what they supply to make progress in weaning the Defense Department from Chinese companies and the critical defense systems and components provided. Sounds basic, doesn’t it?

To that end, Govini, Inc., a software development company focused on defense acquisition processes, released The 2024 National Security Scorecard on June 13. It is a comprehensive and detailed “analysis across 15 critical technology areas essential for US defense and national security … This edition provides a nuanced understanding of the Defense Acquisition Process, revealing the intricate interplay among government agencies, contractors, and suppliers,” the company’s web page explains. Govini uses a proprietary data gathering and analysis tool that “scrutinizes government spending trends, private innovation, and supply chain dynamics.”

When it looked at foreign suppliers providing “critical technologies” to individual military services, the year-over-year (YOY) change was not encouraging. Defense One’s portrayal of the Govini data shows that the US Army has reduced its reliance on China by 17% and the US Navy by 41%. That’s where the good news ends. The US Air Force’s PRC supplier YOY percentage increased by 69%. The aggregate of DOD agencies, supposedly leading the effort to reduce reliance on China, increased the CCP supplier count by 38%.

Reliance on Chinese suppliers and critical technological components is one of many issues facing the Pentagon. A June 2023 investigation by the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party revealed the DOD was funding university technology research open to the Chinese. The committee found that Alfred University continued to host the Confucius Institute, which is tied to a Chinese research university. “To put it plainly, DOD is funding advanced, hypersonic weapons-related research at an American university that actively partners with a Chinese university that performs similar research for the PLA,” former committee Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. “It is not a secret that the CCP uses Confucius Institutes to project ‘soft power,’ but it’s time to shed light on how the CCP also uses these institutes to build Chinese ‘hard power’ weapons that could be used against Americans in a future conflict,” Gallagher explained.

DOD Has a Big Challenge

Admittedly, the DOD has a challenge. “The Defense Department must acquire new capability in its weapon systems, and new capability means more state-of-the-art semiconductors and microelectronics to control weapon operations and performance,” Liberty Nation News reported. Those components are often unavailable domestically and must be sourced from tech companies in other nations. Nonetheless, all military services are obligated to safeguard the supply chains that make the new capabilities possible.

The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliate.

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