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Biden Admin Announces Flurry of Reshoring Actions, Including Council on Supply Chain Resilience

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Yesterday, I posted about the over $6 billion in new funding for US advanced manufacturing related to batteries and semiconductor packaging announced by the Biden administration to be awarded in 2024. Meanwhile, the day before I wrote the post, on November 27, 2023, the administration had already announced a litany of other related plans for 2024 in addition to those funds. Perhaps most notably, these plans include the creation of a White House Council on Supply Chain Resilience, which had its first meeting on the 27th.

As the administration noted in the White House Fact Sheet about the new efforts, the new council follows up on the work done by the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, which President Biden announced on his first day in office. The Council on Supply Chain Resilience will be co-chaired by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and National Economic Advisor Lael Brainard, and will be comprised more or less of all the cabinet-level department and agency heads in the White House.

Image courtesy of New York Fed and BLS

As the administration argues, reinforced by the above chart from the New York Federal Reserve and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), inflation has risen mainly due to the supply chain difficulties prevailing in the global economy since COVID. The White House links the mitigation of inflationary pressures to major policy actions that it has taken along with the US Congress, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and CHIPS Act.

Of course, it’s almost impossible to say whether or not President Biden’s major policy initiatives have been primarily responsible for the gradual improvement of inflationary conditions in the economy at-large, and many commenters have argued that they’ve in fact made inflation worse. But it’s difficult to imagine that those policies haven’t played some substantial role in taming inflation, mainly by stimulating the readier supply of critical materials and goods.

President Biden at the AM Forward launch event. Image courtesy of ASTRO America

Illustrating the extent to which it has been busy learning on the fly, the White House has shaped its next year of policymaking around the strengths and weaknesses of its first three years of policymaking. More to the point, the Biden administration is clearly making its pitch for four more years in office based on doubling down on the key features of Bidenomics.

Bidenomics has yet to turn the US additive manufacturing (AM) sector into the disruptive force it has long been itching to prove itself as. Nevertheless, the administration’s announcement on Monday should fill the AM sector with a considerable amount of optimism, however vague, for 2024. Above all, the very fact that “supply chain resilience” — a phrase that has become synonymous with 3D printing — is now the central task of the White House cabinet, signals that things are moving in the right direction.

Success for Bidenomics will likely be most dependent upon two key challenges, the solutions to which can be bolstered by AM. The first factor is cross-agency harmonization on the administration’s central goals, which explains why much of the Monday announcement surrounded “[n]ew cross-governmental supply chain data-sharing capabilities.” Notably, the three departments with the highest AM competencies — Defense, Energy, and Commerce — now each have their own supply chain monitoring mechanisms, including the Department of Commerce’s Supply Chain Center and DoD’s Supply Chain Mapping Tool, which analyzes “supplier data for 110 weapons systems.” It seems particularly relevant for the AM sector, that the digitalization of data concerning manufacturing supply chains has jumped to the forefront of government policy.

The second factor is workforce development, which is the Achilles’ heel of the US government’s broad-sweeping attempt to reshore American manufacturing. In this vein, the most promising aspects of the Monday announcement lie in two forthcoming studies to be released by the government: “a nationwide plan for smart manufacturing” sponsored by the Department of Energy, and the first-ever National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS).

The latter, according to the White House Fact Sheet, “will guide engagement, policy development, and investment in the defense industrial base over the next three to five years.” It is inconceivable, in my opinion, that both the nationwide plan for smart manufacturing and NDIS won’t conclude as one of their major findings, that the US manufacturing workforce needs all the help that it can get.

Although the AM sector has also been hamstrung by that same problem, a silver lining is that the sector has, at least, been focused on addressing that problem for about a decade at this point. The more urgent that the problem becomes, the likelier it is that the industry that is farthest ahead will be assigned a leadership role in solving it.

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