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Trump Orders Extensive Study of Defense Industrial Base

A Crane Army Ammunition Activity explosives operator torques the fuse to a 5"/54 projectile body during 2017 production in Crane, Indiana.

A Crane Army Ammunition Activity explosives operator torques the fuse to a 5"/54 projectile body during 2017 production in Crane, Indiana. // U.S. Army / 1st Lt. Marshall Z Howell

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to launch a cross-government study of whether the country’s manufacturers can fully supply the military’s needs during a war or lower-level conflict, officials said Friday.

The review will investigate whether there are enough manufacturers to supply everything from submarine propeller blades to circuit boards and military-grade semiconductors, and whether there’s enough skilled labor to keep those factories running, presidential adviser Peter Navarro said during a press briefing.

The review will look for single points of failure that government policy can address, said Navarro, who is director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy.

He called the order “one of the most significant presidentially led actions on the state of the defense industrial base since Dwight Eisenhower was in office.”

The Pentagon will lead the review, which will loop in the Homeland Security, Commerce, Energy and Labor departments and numerous other agencies, Navarro said.

DHS and Commerce, for example, could investigate how “dual use” restrictions on imports and exports affect defense readiness, Navarro said. The U.S. government restricts companies from exporting certain items such as software that probes digital code for hackable vulnerabilities and surveillance technology that can be used for both nefarious and benign purposes.

It’s not clear whether the report will examine the Defense Department's acquisition process, which is notoriously lengthy and complicated. DOD officials may choose to study the Pentagon’s own buying procedures if it deems them within the study’s scope, Navarro said.

The report will be due to the president in an unclassified version within nine months of the order, he said, with a possible classified annex.

The report will go beyond an annual DoD report to Congress on industrial base capabilities, because it will loop in expertise from other government agencies along with the priorities of those agencies, such as promoting trade and raising employment, Navarro said.

He described the forthcoming executive order as “a microcosm of the Trump culture,” which “does not silo defense, the economy and trade and the workforce” but embraces “all the interconnections between a strong manufacturing base, a strong industrial base, a strong workforce, vibrant communities…that strengthen our tax base which…allows us to buy the material and weapons.”

Navarro’s office was created by the Trump administration in April. 

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