North Korea is distracting from America's steel import crisis

North Korea is distracting from America's steel import crisis
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A torrent of headlines have reported that the United States intelligence community reached the bleak determination that no amount of pressure will convince Kim Jong Un to disarm. Earlier this month, a Russian lawmaker said North Korea is preparing to test a long-range missile which it believes can reach the west coast of the United States.

For months, news outlets have faithfully covered the latest updates on Kim Jong Un and North Korea’s continued nuclear tests. While it is critical for the public to be made aware of these developments, we must not let it distract from the many other ongoing issues impacting national security. The Section 232 probe into the national security impact of steel imports is one such urgent matter that has not received the attention it deserves.

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The national security of the United States is currently at risk due to a flood of foreign steel imports. Our country has long been affected by the actions of governments in countries like China, Russia and others who subsidize their steel manufacturers and allow them to dump low cost supply into our nation. This has contributed to a massive global steel overcapacity and driven prices on the global steel market down to a point where American manufacturers cannot compete.

There is no question that the surge in steel imports has contributed to the decline of the American steel industry. Imports have caused the demise of manufacturers across the country, and impacted thousands of jobs for hardworking Americans as a result. More than 14,000 steel industry jobs were lost in 2015 and 2016 alone, and 48,000 have been eliminated since 2000. A recent report shows that steel imports are up 27 percent in August, illustrating that they are not slowing their course.

These figures will not improve on their own and will only worsen unless action is taken to address the ongoing steel import crisis. President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE’s frequent promises to prioritize American jobs and support at-risk industries like steel gave many hope that these trends would finally be reversed, but President Trump’s lack of action thus far has been troubling.

What’s even more concerning, however, is the impact steel imports have on the security of our nation. As steel factories close in the United States, the military and some of our most vital industries become increasingly reliant on foreign suppliers. This, in turn, compromises our ability to source steel rapidly in a crisis and puts our security in the hands of other countries by subjecting us to their potential supply disruptions, quality control issues and price gouging.

It is dangerous to do nothing as our global competitors take obvious steps to push us completely out of the steel production market that is so critical to our nation’s defense. Eliminating our ability to source steel necessary for armor, ships, tanks and other weapons jeopardizes our military’s ability to keep Americans safe.

Moreover, the loss of steelmaking capacity risks our ability to support our nation’s infrastructure. To illustrate the impact, because of plant closures, there remains just a single domestic steel manufacturer capable of making quality grain-oriented electrical steel that is essential for transmission and distribution energy transformers.

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Relying on foreign steel becomes a critical concern when the United States needs to increase military production in order to meet the demands of a current or impending conflict. Make no mistake, if we lose our domestic steelmaking capacity, we will be dependent on potentially hostile foreign governments to make the steel necessary for our military equipment and homeland infrastructure.

While I applaud the administration’s initiation of the Section 232 probe into whether foreign steel imports threaten U.S. security, the results have been delayed multiple times and President Trump recently said that his administration will wait to address Section 232.

As a retired general in the U.S. Army, I find the administration’s lack of urgency on this matter to be extremely concerning. In an increasingly unpredictable and volatile global climate, we cannot afford to sit idly on this issue. With each passing day, bad actors in trade strengthen their grip on the global steel market, and further increase the risk of failure to source steel in a crisis.

I urge President Trump and the administration to recognize steel imports as the serious national security threat that they are, and I ask that he take swift and decisive action to protect the American people and our vital steelmaking capacity.

Brigadier General John Adams retired from the U.S. Army in 2007. His final assignment was as deputy United States military representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization military committee. He is the author of “Remaking American Security” and the president of Guardian Six Consulting.