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Preparing Supply Chains for a Coming War
AEI
2024.02.16
This report argues that the United States, in its inability to insulate itself and build resilience to separation from Taiwanese supply chains, has effectively turned the island into a hostage: China can use Taiwan to exact military and economic concessions from the US, laying bare American dependence on the island for critical inputs, such as semiconductors. The report charts how ineffective efforts by the Defense Department, by the White House, and on Capitol Hill to shore up US supply-chain vulnerabilities led to this point. Additionally, the report provides a glimpse of government vendors’ heavy dependence on suppliers based in China and Taiwan, whose supplies a conflict in the Indo-Pacific would disrupt or cut off entirely.
The report closes with actionable recommendations for shifting how we think about supply chains overall. The US government must stop considering supply-chain independence in terms of foreign sourcing of inputs, while relying on studies and reports to examine the problem. It should instead target resilience through increasing inventory, finding and building new sources, or redesigning. Furthermore, it should identify dependencies through bottom-up analysis, inverting the supply-chain paradigm from remediating inputs, such as rare earths, to focusing on outputs, such as F-35 jets. The report argues that these actions should be taken in condensed time frames and with a single organization in charge.
Failing to rethink and remediate the Chinese and Taiwanese supply chains on which the US military depends continues the signal of “non-deterrence” in the Indo-Pacific, inviting conflict through the message that the US cannot resupply its military during a war. On the other hand, plugging these vulnerabilities would make the US more prepared to deter and, if necessary, fight in such a conflict.