Byline: Tim Ryan, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
As a founding member of the Congressional Defense Industrial Base Caucus, I stand with many of my colleagues who believe that Congress must take steps to preserve America's ability to produce weapons and other military equipment essential to our nation's security. As U.S. manufacturing jobs are lost in record numbers, domestic suppliers who produce critical items for the military are placed at grave risk. The defense authorization bill passed by the House last month tries to minimize that risk by strengthening the Berry Amendment a 30-year-old statute which recognizes that certain domestic manufacturing capabilities are so critical to our military might that the products must be produced in the United States.
In recent years, Berry Amendment protections have been overlooked or waived to accommodate large defense contractors or "integrators" who claim a need for supplier sourcing flexibility. While the claims may have merit, such flexibility cannot, and must not, come at the expense of our domestic industrial base, and certainly not at the expense of our national security.
Modern warplanes cannot be built without titanium. An extraordinary metal, prized for its lightness and strength, titanium is one of the critical components responsible for the United States' overwhelming success in Iraq and the safety of the servicemen and women who put their lives on the line each day.
In many ways, the U.S. titanium industry is emblematic of the 215 industries that make up the U.S. defense industrial base. It is one we cannot afford to lose.
Although titanium is produced in several countries, only four companies in the world are qualified to supply titanium for the manufacture of U.S. fighters, bombers and tankers. Three are midsized U.S. companies with one, RTI International Metals, headquartered in northeastern Ohio, while the fourth larger than the three U.S. companies combined is in Russia. Without adequate levels of protection for U.S.-produced titanium, this vital industry would be lost and the U.S. would become a supplicant to Russia for this critical material.
Military tank track and aircraft and off-road (Humvee) tires are another example. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is the last remaining major U.S. tire manufacturer and the only domestic supplier of these military products. While our U.S. troops serving in Iraq would not be pleased to know that many of …