By now the impacts of supply chain disruption are becoming all too familiar: shortages, inflation, factory closures, goods waiting at ports to be unloaded. All these impacts are serious enough, but another more-hidden concern lurks just beneath the surface: the impact of supply chain failure on national security, broadly defined as a nation’s ability to protect and ensure the well-being of its population.
This definition of “national security” is broader than just the defense industry or military-related efforts; it also could encompass the very ability of a nation to ensure economic well-being, public health, and protection of a nation’s key infrastructure. Supply chain disruptions cause general economic disruption and key commodity shortages, which then in turn can, in fact, drive aggressive national behavior and international instability. And ironically, this reactive aggressive national behavior can happen even if the health of a national economy itself depends upon continued international economic interdependence. Indeed, this very interdependence can create vulnerabilities. So a systematic effort, cutting across agencies and public and private sectors, could be one way to ensure these vulnerabilities are understood and mitigated.
Supply Chain Disruption and Conflict
Dispersed supply chains develop because actors find it’s economically advantageous to seek the least-expensive and most-productive sources of supply. These dispersed chains develop for good reasons, but they create complicated interdependencies whose risks and vulnerabilities are sometimes not even understood, let alone mitigated.
While the reasons for creating these chains lie largely with private interest, the effects of disruption—which can come from sources ranging from malign human action to natural disaster—are rarely localized. When shortages occur in one industry, the disruptions in one area nearly always spill into adjacent companies and sectors. Whole economies feel the impact, not isolated actors.
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