INDIANAPOLIS — Manufacturing is part of the backbone that makes the United States function as a country.
It gives people jobs, mass produces items and products that Americans need, and in times of need, helps the country through crisis’s that are detrimental to the country’s national security.
For example, during World War II, the United States was able to use automobile plants throughout the country to mass produce planes and make weapons for the war effort. Today, manufacturing companies are being called upon again to make medical supplies and devices to help fight the coronavirus.
“What we are noticing is certain industries are vital to national security,” said Matt Will, an economist at the University of Indianapolis. “We used to define ‘national security’ as a threat from the former Soviet Union or a foreign adversary. Now, national security can be defined to include a pandemic or viral attacks from unknown sources.”
But, in this day in age, many manufacturing companies, in an effort save as much money as possible, may look to outsource manufacturing jobs from the United States to places like China where labor is cheaper.
With this happening more often, some may ask if there is enough infrastructure in the United States to facilitate the demand for manufacturing to produce items vital to national security? Will believes there is, but that it is an issue when the U.S. has to rely on manufacturing from overseas in times of crisis.
“You’ve heard the president announce that he had to use federal law to require them to produce products,” Will said. “But that didn’t address the issue which is ‘are these industries in the United States right now, or are they overseas where these foreign countries can block receipt of these goods that we need.”
Will added that it would be a “slippery slope” for the president or federal government to enact legislation to block manufacturing companies outsourcing work to foreign countries in the name of national security, especially during times when there are no apparent threats to national security.
However, Will said the president does have the power to write rules that make it so certain products must be made within the United States. He references Ronald Reagan’s order in the 1980s that helped revitalize jobs in the tool and die industry. By limiting the amount of tool and die products that foreign countries could export to the United States, that opened things up for the industry to grow and flourish within the United States.
Will said the same thing could be done in the manufacturing of ventilators, masks, and other medical supplies.
But, again he added that the federal government must be careful to go about this while also not stepping on the freedoms of these companies to operate how they see fit.