National defense is a bipartisan endeavor. Increasing the United States’ economic prosperity and maintaining U.S. competitiveness are also vital bipartisan efforts. Yet there is an idea gaining traction in both parties that, if not carefully bounded, could work against a strong national defense, economic prosperity, competitiveness, and our ability to cooperate with allies and partners: restrictive procurement rules.
In Congress and the wider policy community, the need to address great power competition is increasingly being paired with domestic content requirements—such as “Buy American,” “domestic sourcing”, or “onshoring”—intended to create jobs in the United States. New provisions are being designed to safeguard national security by ensuring security of supply and supply chains vis-à-vis adversaries.
China is the biggest concern in this regard. China’s unfair trade practices, intellectual property theft, and anti-democratic policies have led the United States and Europe to align regulations; diversify supply; and prevent monopolistic control over strategic minerals, telecommunications, and software. At present, many down-chain suppliers to the Department of Defense’s prime contractors in several Major Defense Acquisition Programs are reliant on components from China. Undoubtedly, this vulnerability should be addressed.
Yet however well intentioned, restrictive procurement rules to secure supply chains and create jobs could have several unintended consequences. Arbitrary deadlines and domestic content requirements, for example, can lead to delays in delivery due to supply chain disruptions. This adds to project costs and impacts the ability to deliver critical capabilities to the warfighter on schedule and at a reasonable cost. (end of excerpt)
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