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Critical Supply Chain Task Force Releases Recommendations

July 30, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

The Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force has released its final report with findings and recommendations following a months-long review of supply chain threats and vulnerabilities.

A large item is hoisted onto a ship.
Ship Loading
Chartered by the Navy's Military Sealift Command, heavy lift container ship Motor Vessel Schuyler Line Navigation Company Magothy is loaded at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.,, in support of Pacer Goose Sustainment 2021, an annual resupply mission to move a year’s worth of sustainment material to Thule Air Force Base in Greenland, 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle, June 29, 2020.
Photo By: LaShawn Sykes, Navy
VIRIN: 200629-N-AC165-000A

The task force focused on the Defense Department's global, industrial-base supply chain, which furnishes parts, materials, systems and services to the DOD. The task force was led by a bipartisan group of House Armed Services Committee representatives, which may add task force recommendations to the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.

"The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the degree to which weakened U.S. supply chains pose a risk to our economic and national security," the report stated, noting the acute shortages of personal protective equipment that occurred.

"As we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, our adversaries — particularly China — are capable of weaponizing supply chain vulnerabilities," the report stated, adding that task force proposals are designed to minimize reliance on foreign suppliers, China in particular, to prevent future shortages.

A person stands beside an aircraft.
Osprey Inspection
A Marine Corps crew chief with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin inspects an MV-22B Osprey with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363 (Reinforced) during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021 at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin, Australia, July 15, 2021
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Micha Pierce
VIRIN: 210715-M-MH051-2005

The task force's final report recommendations include:

  • Tasking the DOD with establishing a comprehensive strategy for mitigating risk in its industrial base supply chain.
  • Ensuring the DOD has visibility on the defense supply chain to understand its vulnerabilities — rather than relying solely on industry to provide that information — and developing risk mitigation strategies. 
  • Reducing reliance on adversaries, such as China and Russia, for resources and manufacturing. 
  • Forming partnerships between the department with industry, academia and other entities to incentivize and increase the education and training of the U.S. workforce. 

The report also noted that collaboration can be facilitated by strengthening the DOD's collaboration with the National Technology and Industrial Base. The NTIB facilitates research, development and production of defense-related items within the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom and Australia.

Three young soldiers set up equipment.
Network Nodes
Soldiers set up scalable network nodes on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, July 13, 2021. This equipment provides vital communication and network operations support for the I Corps command post that will oversee Exercise Forager 21.
Photo By: Army Pfc. Daniel Proper
VIRIN: 210713-A-LE512-1005

The Defense Department engaged frequently with the task force over the past few months and appreciated the current, bipartisan support from Congress on the importance of strengthening the defense supply chains, said a DOD official. 

Increasing supply chain resiliency is a whole-of-government effort, not just a defense issue, and the findings and recommendations in the task force’s final report reflect the need for a collaborative approach to renewing our enduring sources of national strength, the official said.

"For more than 50 years, the U.S. has pursued efficiency in its supply chains, and the last year has crystallized the need to build supply chain resilience into our thinking, as well," said Jesse Salazar, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy . 

Soldiers load supplies onto a ship.
Loading Supplies
The crew of Army Vessel Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, loads equipment and supplies on the ship in Guam, July 18, 2021.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Martin
VIRIN: 210718-A-HZ238-867

"The White House, Congress, the DOD, our interagency partners and industry stand united behind strengthening our defense industrial base and working in common cause with our closest allies and partners," he said.

The recommendations in the task force’s report align closely with those proposed by the DOD and its interagency partners in the 100-day response to Executive Order 14017, further highlighting the cohesion across all parts of the U.S. government on this critical issue, Salazar added.