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House task force pushes Pentagon to wean itself off Chinese sources

A House Armed Services Committee task force will release legislative proposals that would require the Pentagon to treat supply chain security as a “strategic priority” and identify a plan to wean itself off key materials sourced from China, according to a draft of the recommendations obtained by Federal News Network.

The committee’s “Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force” final report includes six major legislative recommendations for inclusion in the fiscal year 2022 defense policy bill. They include a requirement for the Defense Department to have a “department-wide risk assessment strategy and system for continuous monitoring, assessing, and mitigating risk in the defense supply chain,” according to the draft.

DoD should also be required to “employ commercially available tools to map the defense supply chain within one year of enactment,” according to the report.

“The defense supply chain presents a national security risk: a significant amount of material in the Defense Industrial Base is sole-sourced from the People’s Republic of China,” it states. “With the requirement for a strategic framework and illuminating the supply chain, the Department must use this information to work with industry, allies and partner nations to lessen the reliance on the People’s Republic of China.”

The task force is led by Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who say they want to build on past assessments of the defense industrial base and have their report lead to effective legislation. The House Armed Services Committee begins marking up the fiscal 2022 defense authorization bill next week.

During an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security today, Slotkin and Gallagher described how the task force was motivated by the supply shortfalls during COVID, when it became difficult to source important supplies like ventilators and personal protective equipment.

“Along came COVID, and really exposed some of those vulnerabilities in a really intense way,” Slotkin said. “And we got to thinking, if it exposed vulnerabilities on the commercial side, what would that mean for the defense supply chain? What would it mean, if those vulnerabilities actually were dependencies, particularly on countries like China?”

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