Ensuring the U.S. military's continued access to critical materials to enable the nation's defense is a priority of the Defense Department. But the dependability of America's supply chain doesn't just affect the military, it's a concern for the entire U.S. government, said Jesse Salazar, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy.
"President Biden’s executive order on America's supply chains ... distinctly focused on changes in policies and processes geared toward a new approach for 21st century supply chains," Salazar said during remarks at ComDef2021. "Building on the work of prior efforts, the conversation of industrial base security and resiliency has expanded beyond the Department of Defense to a whole-of-government effort."
At DOD, Salazar is responsible for development of policies for the maintenance of the United States defense industrial base.
In Executive Order 14017, published in February, the president asked for a 100-day supply chain review, where the Department of Energy would report on high-capacity batteries; the Department of Commerce would report on semiconductors; the Department of Health and Human Services would report on pharmaceuticals; and the DOD report would identify risks in the supply chain for critical minerals and other identified strategic materials, including rare earth elements.
Those four reports together, Salazar said, provide a clear outline of our approach to tackling supply chain resiliency from a whole-of-government perspective.
The department's own report laid out a set of recommendations to ensure the U.S. has continued access to strategic and critical minerals needed for economic security, addressing the climate crisis and national defense.
The recommendations in the department's report are focused on developing and fostering new sustainability standards for strategic and critical, material-intensive industries; expanding sustainable domestic production and processing capacity, including non-traditional mining and recycling; strengthening U.S. stockpiles; and working with allies and partner nations while promoting greater global transparency.
The president's executive order also requires DOD and five other federal agencies to submit within one year a report on supply chains in their sectors of the economy. The DOD report will focus on the defense industrial base. That report must also identify areas where civilian supply chains are dependent upon competitor nations. Salazar said development of this report is in progress now; its expected release date is in February.
Salazar also said a supply chain resiliency working group was established in August to address systemic barriers limiting supply chain visibility, conduct resilience assessments and develop effective mitigation assessments.
"The two-year effort will leverage work already being performed around supply chain resiliency across the department and interagency," Salazar said. "Initial findings will be included in the one-year report, as well."
Central to ensuring the reliability of America's supply chain is working closely with allies and partners, Salazar said.
"Our supply chains are — and continue to be — global and complex," he said. "It is only with support from our allies and partners, many of whom provide key components and expertise for our weapons systems, that we will be successful."