Why Economic Security Is National Security

Why Economic Security Is National Security
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Why Economic Security Is National Security
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
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Ronald Reagan understood it is only from strength that we may find a true peace. To Reagan, such strength was focused on military strength – an overwhelming and technologically innovative military dominance on land, at sea, in the skies, and surely in the  “Star Wars” heavens above.

Under the banner of peace through strength, President Reagan undermined the very foundations of the Soviet Union without firing a shot, even as he presided over one of the most peaceful decades since World War II.

Today, we live in more complex times. Nation-states do not only challenge us as strategic competitors. Rogue nations develop weapons of mass destruction even as stateless actors engage in jihad and terrorism. We are also in an intense economic competition with nations with whom we trade freely – yet our own free and fair trade often goes unreciprocated.

Into this breach comes President Donald J. Trump with a new organizing principle for strategic policy: Economic security is national security.

To be economically secure, American families must have good jobs at good wages and the freedom to pursue the abundant economic and entrepreneurial opportunities that were available to our forebears. Yet such economic security readily translates into national security because it is only through an enduring American prosperity where we will find the growth, resources, and technological innovations necessary to field the most advanced military in the world.

Under the banner of “economic security is national security,” the Trump administration’s corporate tax cuts now spur investment and catalyze innovation. A wave of deregulation is making American businesses more globally competitive. Steel and aluminum tariffs and strengthened “Buy American” rules help bolster two key pillars of our defense industrial base. Renegotiated trade deals with South Korea and the long-needed NAFTA update – the United States, Mexico, Canada agreement --  will soon help level the playing field for America’s factory workers.

One of the purest expressions of “economic security is national security” is the president’s  new conventional arms transfer policy. When the U.S. government serves as an advocate for private industry to increase defense sales, these sales strengthen our strategic partners and help stabilize regional alliances. That’s pure national security.

But the Trump administration’s new defense sales policies also create great jobs at great wages. That’s pure economic security.

Consider the sale of F-16 fight jets to Bahrain. It not only created more jobs at a new facility in Greenville, S.C., its benefits are rippling across more than 450 manufacturers and suppliers dispersed across 42 states.

No one understands better than the president that it is within these sub-tiers of our supply chain where some of our best manufacturing jobs are -- and where some of America’s greatest vulnerabilities may exist. On July 21, 2017, he directed the secretary of defense to lead a historic whole-of-government assessment of America’s defense industrial base.

 “A healthy defense industrial base is a critical element of U.S. power,” the president proclaimed in the 2017 National Security Strategy. The “ability of the military to surge in response to an emergency depends on our Nation’s ability to produce needed parts and systems.”

On October 5, Deputy Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan presented to the White House the results of DoD’s defense industrial base assessment. This report identified almost 300 gaps and vulnerabilities that this administration is already taking swift actions to address.

For example, we face numerous so-called “single points of failure” where we have only one source of production -- shafts for our ships, gun turrets for our tanks, space-based infrared detectors for missile defense, fabric for the lowly but increasingly high-tech tent. Our defense industrial base is also far too dependent on foreign suppliers for printed circuit boards, machine tools, and many other items critical to national security.

One key lesson from the Defense Department assessment is “never again.” Never again should we allow budget sequestration to suck the oxygen – and capacity to innovate -- out of America’s defense industrial base.

One key warning is that America’s “manufacturing global competitiveness” has been “diminished” not just by the “collateral damage of globalization [but] also due to specific targeting” by strategic competitors like China.

In his Section 301 investigation and supplementary report, the United States trade representative has meticulously documented the full range of acts, policies, and practices China has employed in its attempts to acquire America’s technological crown jewels -- from “forced technology transfer” and “systematic investment” aimed at “cutting edge technologies” to “cyber-enabled theft.”

As Vice President Mike Pence has warned regarding these national security implications, the Chinese Communist Party, using “stolen technology,” is “turning plowshares into swords on a massive scale.”

Viewed from this bridge, the Section 301 tariffs the Trump administration has imposed to defend our technological crown jewels can contribute to our arsenal of democracy alongside the Abrams tank, the Arleigh Burke class destroyer, and the Tomahawk missile.

As President Trump has eloquently stated: “Economic vitality, growth, and prosperity at home [are] absolutely necessary for American power and influence abroad. Any nation that trades away its prosperity for security will end up losing both.”

That’s why under the banner of “economic security is national security,” the nation’s tax, regulatory, energy, and trade policies now fit seamlessly with this administration’s increased defense spending, liberalized arms sales, and broader defense policies. Because of such strong strategic leadership from President Trump, America is a far safer and more prosperous nation.

Peter Navarro is an assistant to the president and director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy.

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