Happy Mother's Day from Passport Stamps
Happy Mother’s Day! I hope everyone enjoyed the day in some fashion. I spent most of the day getting organized for my return to D.C. next month and preparing for the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, which is two weeks from today (subtle hint to get those donations in!).
I confess I haven’t paid close attention to international news over the last week. I had a work trip to Purdue University to cover a conference on energetic materials, which comprise propellants, pyrotechnics, and explosives used in rockets, missiles, and other military stuff, to use the technical term.
Now, that might seem like nerdy stuff, and it kind of is, but it also relates directly to the war in Ukraine and the future of U.S. national security. As the United States is sending loads of weapons and munitions to Ukraine, it has to replace those supplies. Easier said than done.
As we have all experienced during the last couple of years, supply chains are stressed and unable to keep up with demand. That’s happening in the defense industry, and often the limiting factor slowing production is the supply of energetic materials.
As I wrote about last week for National Defense, many energetic materials are produced outside the United States, particularly in China. Manufacturers of such materials generally do not have surge capacity. Even domestic manufacturers are not capable of rapid spool up to crank out more TNT, HDX, RDX, or other critical chemicals needed to propel things and blow things up.
And China is currently banning the export of one chemical essential to ammunition. So, as unsexy of a topic as it might seem on first blush, energetic materials are a big deal and creating a resilient supply chain is a daunting, but necessary task.
Considering that the number one national security concern/threat is deterring and countering China, the fact that China is the sole source of many energetics the United States relies on is a problem.
On top of that, China and other adversaries have been investing in developing new chemicals that are more powerful and lighter. The United States, on the other hand, continues to rely on chemicals it has used since World War II.
Imagine if you build a bomb or missile that weighs half of what a current one does and packs the same punch or flies a longer distance. What are the implications? Being able to fire at the enemy from a longer distance and reducing risk to your forces or having to fly fewer sorties to deliver the same impact. And if you don’t embrace new technologies and your adversary does, they tilt the battlefield in their direction.
It's not something I had focused on until this week and this conference, and it was eye opening to learn that the United States has stagnated in energetics research and development while China and others have advanced. It has implications for the power dynamic between the United States and China.
I know the defense industrial complex can be a touchy topic, and I’m trying to avoid editorializing here, but given Putin’s war and China’s military growth and assertiveness in Asia, it’s fair to ask whether the United States is doing everything it should to deter adversaries.
On that happy note, I wrote about South Sudan last week and left subscribers hanging with a two-part story. The rest of the adventure follows.