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Trump tackles weakness in U.S. defense industrial base, threat from China

October 5, 2018

President Trump on Friday ordered actions to address nearly 300 vulnerabilities in the defense industrial and manufacturing base that were identified in a sweeping Pentagon report.

The vulnerabilities include risks to the supply of materials and technology vital to the U.S. military, with China being a major threat to their supply chains, according to the report that was delivered Friday to Mr. Trump.

The Defense, Commerce, Energy and Labor departments were directed to take action, including expanding direct investment in the industrial base, the White House said.

The spending will target critical bottlenecks in the supply chain, support fragile suppliers and mitigate single points-of-failure.

The moves align with Mr. Trump’s efforts to rebuild the U.S. steel and aluminum industries. He slapped tariffs on those products this year to boost domestic production, triggering trade disputes with China but also Canada and other allies.

The Pentagon report arrived as the administration amplified its get-tough China policy, with Vice President Mike Pence warning in a speech Thursday of Beijing’s economic and political interference in the U.S.

“We will not be intimidated, and we will not stand down,” Mr. Pence said.

Other actions outlined by the White House include:

* Accelerating workforce development efforts to increase domestic science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) education, and critical trade skills.

* Working with allies and partners on joint industrial base challenges.

Mr. Trump ordered the review in July 2017 to assess lost manufacturing capability and military readiness.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan presented the report to the president in the Oval Office.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was the most comprehensive assessment of the manufacturing and defense industrial base in U.S. history.

“The Trump administration is pursuing an aggressive agenda to rebuild our military through increased defense spending and modernization initiatives, while taking strong measures to revitalize American manufacturing,” she said in a statement.

“We are reducing burdensome regulations, implementing historic tax cuts, ending unfair trade deals, and much more. These policies represent the understanding, outlined in the 2017 National Security Strategy, that economic security truly is national security.”

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