There exists inevitable dynamic tension between companies seeking international trade—something as old as human civilization—and the governments of nation-states charged with protecting its citizenry. Note that I am an American citizen on the one side of things, yet I have dealt in international business and was trained in international relations at the university, so I embody that tension. Not to mention that this blog has quite an international audience. One of many, many reasons I don’t do politics.

Despite continued centralization of government in the United States, it does remain a federation of states in many aspects. Alone among industrialized nations, the US lacks a coherent manufacturing strategy. As supply chain problems caused by the COVID-19 crisis (cited by the Manufacturing Institutes below) along with the increasingly hostile trade disputes with China show, the country’s manufacturing base has perhaps become too dependent upon international supply chains. 

An organization currently forming composed of many of the US Manufacturing Institutes proposes a “Manufacturing Guard.” From its white paper we learn the background: The current COVID-19 crisis has challenged America’s ability to respond rapidly to a threat and exposed vulnerabilities that must be addressed to ensure America’s national and economic security, and public health, in the face of threats such as pandemics, war, and the rise of more technologically advanced adversaries. As we recover from the current crisis, and prepare for the possibility of the next, it is well past time to think about our security and competitiveness as linked to our manufacturing, supply chain, and workforce capabilities. 

The 2018 National Defense Strategy calls for increased and sustained investment, innovation, and discipline from all aspects of America’s industrial base to guarantee the nation’s ability to compete in an increasingly complex security environment. 

To restore domestic control, resilience, and flexibility, a multi- faceted national program must be developed to map the current, architect the new, and implement an optimized manufacturing base that affords the U.S. strategic control over critical supply chains. This undertaking will require a systems-level reimagining of manufacturing and talent development with a focus on optimizing what already exists in the U.S. domestic asset base and flexibly adding distributed capacity for basic feed stocks, intermediates, and finished products that are currently only manufactured overseas. The Manufacturing USA institutes, which are each tasked with establishing and growing ecosystems around specific technology areas, are uniquely positioned to answer the call and build a more resilient U.S. manufacturing base to better prepare for the next crisis. To address these needs, we propose the following: 

I) Create a national Manufacturing Guard: We make the analogy to the National Guard’s readiness to defend our country to propose a national Manufacturing Guard. This group would be comprised of leading corporate experts in manufacturing and production, and they would train annually for agile and effective response during a crisis to mitigate scenarios that threaten supply chains and impede immediate availability and access to necessary products across the country.

II) Create a national, real-time Supply Chain Data Exchange: The Supply Chain Data Exchange infrastructure would enable a secure, end-to-end data backbone for real time visibility and the mitigation tools necessary to support the resilient production of critical products needed during Covid-19 and future supply chain disruptions. 

III) Create the Technology Corps: The Technology Corps will ensure Americans can be rapidly educated on emerging advanced manufacturing technologies. The Technology Corps will establish a workforce pipeline to respond to national security needs and will be a pipeline into the national Manufacturing Guard, providing individuals who will have worked with industry leaders and understand the importance of keeping our manufacturing capabilities up to date and safe. 

IV) Form a Resilient Manufacturing Task Force and a Resilient Manufacturing Advisory Council: A Resilient Manufacturing Task Force is required to convene and develop a plan to create the national Manufacturing Guard, the Supply Chain Data Exchange, and the Technology Corps. The Task Force will also be able to begin mapping critical gaps in the supply chains across sectors and identify opportunities to refine current, and design new, technologies for an optimized system design.

Your Call to Action

We are offering two identical, online events to share these insights and strategies with the national manufacturing ecosystem. The first was September 29. You can still register for the second one as described below.

Webinar #2

  • Thursday, October 1, 2020
  • 2:00pm Eastern / 11:00am Pacific
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Speakers:
    • John Dyck, CEO, CESMII
    • Chandra Brown, CEO, MxD
    • Kelvin Lee, CEO, NIIMBL (moderator)

Register Online

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