Senator Roger Wicker says the nation’s military relies upon thousands of small manufacturers that are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and the loss of just one supplier could be disastrous for entire programs.
Senator Wicker penned the following regarding his request for new funding for military manufacturing:
American workers and businesses still need relief to battle the financial effects of the coronavirus crisis. As Congress advances new measures to help all Americans, giving targeted support to our nation’s military manufacturers is one idea that should not be overlooked. This spending would give a needed boost to hundreds of small businesses and millions of workers nationwide. And it would show our nation’s adversaries, including China and Iran, that now is not the time to test our military’s resolve.
Military Supply Chain Faces Setbacks
Our military depends on a steady supply of equipment made by thousands of private companies all across the country. These companies, both large and small, employ millions of Americans and thousands of Mississippi residents. Many of the larger companies, like Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding, rely on small businesses that make specialized parts. Seemann Composites, Inc. in Gulfport, for example, produces special fiberglass for Navy and Marine Corps vessels. And U.S. Marine, Inc. develops small, fast-attack boats for the Navy. These and literally thousands of other companies are linked in an intricate supply chain that typically runs on tight deadlines and thin margins. In many cases, there is only one company that supplies a certain product, making it all the more vital that these companies survive.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has brought massive delays to this supply chain and forced many small suppliers to shut their doors. Some face the prospect of going out of business completely if production does not start again soon. Losing critical suppliers would be disastrous for workers and for our military, which relies on new equipment to keep our nation safe. China, in particular, is looking for opportunities to exploit U.S. weaknesses. Now is the time to safeguard our military supply base.
New Contracts for Suppliers
The federal government can play a vital role in keeping military suppliers afloat. Already the Department of Defense has announced it is spending $3 billion to reimburse contractors affected by work delays and breaks in the supply chain. As Congress considers new relief measures, I will work to include targeted funding to ensure that suppliers get the stable cash flow and contracts they need to endure this crisis. These awards should go toward projects the military has already identified as priorities and should not break the bank.
These contracts are urgently needed given the industry’s logistical challenges. Suppliers are spread out across the country, and various regions are being affected differently by COVID-19. This is making it nearly impossible for industry partners to keep in step with each other and meet deadlines. Suppliers need flexibility in the pace of production, which can be achieved by awarding more contracts up-front. This would allow them to keep employees on the payroll during any temporary shutdowns and guarantee they have work to come back to when their local situation improves.
I am thankful that many Mississippi businesses have been able to weather this crisis by letting employees work from home. The modern miracle of telework has been a blessing to many. Unfortunately this option is not available to entire sectors of our economy, including those who build our military’s planes, helicopters, vehicles, and ships. I am determined to make sure these workers, and our military supply chain overall, do not become casualties of the coronavirus.
-Senator Roger Wicker