New House task force focuses on supply chain vulnerabilities

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), co-chair of the Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force, said "sometimes the marketplace just doesn't get it right and we, without intending to, create real national security vulnerabilities for ourselves."

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The House Armed Services Committee has launched a task force to investigate defense supply chain vulnerabilities, foreign manufacturing concerns and other issues raised by the pandemic.

"The experience of our totally disrupted supply chains in the early part of the pandemic was a pretty searing experience," Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), co-chair of the Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force, told reporters on March 10.

Supply chain vulnerabilities have long been a concern in the Pentagon but really gained increased attention in recent years particularly regarding foreign manufacturing of technologies such as small drones, semiconductors and microelectronics.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) joins Slotkin as task force co-chair to lead the three-month effort geared toward coming up with legislative solutions that can be included in the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act for 2022.

Gallagher, who co-chaired the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, said the task force will look at cyber vulnerabilities to the supply chain, leveraging the work the commission has already done on the issue.

"That's going to be our challenge going forward, to keep us really focused, keep the final report short as a plan of action without it commenting on everything," Gallagher said.

The effort, which could extend beyond the initial 90 days if renewed, will look at material production, manufacturing, and access points.

"Sometimes the marketplace just doesn't get it right and we, without intending to, create real national security vulnerabilities for ourselves by allowing the free market to just decide where they want to build these things," Slotkin said.

The group, which includes Reps. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), and Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.), will also strive to come up with solutions that tap the U.S. allies and won't require reshoring production of everything DOD needs, Gallagher said.

"I'm hoping that as the Biden administration has federal agencies conduct their reviews pursuant to the supply chain executive order that they'll focus less on 'buy America' and more on this idea of 'buy ally'," instead of manufacturing everything domestically," Gallagher said.

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