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Our National Security Depends On Our Independence From China

May 27, 2021

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed firsthand the breakdown in our supply chains when federal, state, and local entities had to compete with one another for simple personal protective equipment. It was a terrifying glimpse into a future situation that has the potential to be mimicked on a larger, more dangerous scale. This realization showed how the country needs a more robust dialogue with business leaders about the impact of doing business in and with China.

We can no longer assume that any product, no matter how high- or low-tech, is not critical or that the supply of those items is assured. If our collective experience with COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that many of our medical and critical technology supply chains are entirely dependent on a nation that does not share our values. Building domestic resilience in these supply chains is a vital homeland security mission.

The question we face now is: How can we create more supply chain security and ensure we are better prepared for future crises?

The most important first step is to identify needs across the economy and do so in a way that allows for effective communication with the companies that operate in critical sectors. Without a complete understanding not only of critical items but also the ecosystems those items depend on, we will forever remain vulnerable to global shocks. We must have an immediate discussion about what level of vulnerability we are willing to accept and from where. I believe the Department of Homeland Security, which has the experience and capability to carry out this undertaking, is the clear nexus to provide this critical assessment.

I recently co-sponsored legislation, H.R. 3264, that requires DHS to analyze various sectors of the economy and identify whether there exists a present or future threat to homeland security. It also requires the secretary of Homeland Security to produce an annual report on these risks to be presented to the public and Congress. This bill is not a quick fix to all our supply chain problems, but it is an important first step for DHS to identify where problem areas exist and begin to fix them. I hope that we can quickly move this bill to the floor of the House.

As a nation, we must identify weaknesses in the ability of the public and private sector to recover from disaster events and overcome domestic scarcity of goods in the case of a crisis. Florida and our municipalities must be honest about the threats we face from China via partnerships, financial transactions, or business acquisitions. Most importantly, we need to recognize that the decisions we make now will have effects down the road.

China is playing the long game. We need to play the long game, too.

Kat Cammack represents Florida's 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She serves on the House Homeland Security Committee and is the lead Republican on the Subcommittee for Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.