WASHINGTON (July 26, 2012)—The movement of U.S. manufacturing offshore has made the nation especially vulnerable to both natural and man-made disasters, according to a study commissioned by the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
“The 21st-Century risk environment is creating an alarming trend in which the hyper-consequential, “500-year” event is occurring with greater frequency, said the study co-authored by Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of Homeland Security, and Robert B. Stephan, former assistant secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection.
These disasters include not only terrorist attacks and nuclear plant meltdowns, but also earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires and tsunamis, the authors said.
“Globalization has given a world of opportunity to manufacturers, but it's also created far greater risks than we've seen before,” Ridge said.
Many things crucial to U.S. security and recovery in case of a disaster, such as giant transformers for power grids, are no longer made in this country, according to Ridge. Furthermore, these items often are made in countries that aren't always friendly to the U.S., he said.
Ridge mentioned tires for fighter jets as a specific example. “I am told they replace those tires after five or six landings,” he said. “That's the kind of product we need to make here.”
Ridge said he is a born free-trader who admires the efficiency and economy of just-in-time manufacturing. But in the current geopolitical climate, he said, that system is fatally easy to disrupt.
Meanwhile, he said, it will take $2.2 trillion just to repair and restore existing U.S. infrastructure. America needs the industrial capacity to make the goods to respond quickly to catastrophes, according to Ridge. “You don't have to use it all the time, but you'd better have it available,” he said.
Among the recommendations the report makes are:
—developing a plan to make the restoration of the U.S. manufacturing sector a key component of national and economic security strategies;
—reinvesting in the U.S. infrastructure, using U.S.-made materials;
—creating incentives to revitalize U.S. manufacturing, including domestic content preferences in federal procurement;
—enforcing trade laws to ensure a level playing field for U.S. manufacturers; and
—investing in education and training for American workers.
The Alliance for American Manufacturing is a coalition of the United Steelworkers union and various U.S. manufacturing firms.