(Bloomberg) -- Delays in US delivery of promised weapons to Taiwan stem more from defense industry shortcomings than government inefficiency, according to a State Department official handling foreign arms sales.
“We need to work together to encourage our partners in industry to take more risks, be more flexible, diversify their supply chains and act with deliberate speed to expand production capacity,” Mira Resnick, deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Political Military Affairs, said in prepared remarks for a hearing Tuesday by the House Armed Services Committee.
American lawmakers have criticized a potential backlog of as much as $19 billion in military contract deliveries for Taiwan, a sensitive matter as concerns grow over the possibility that China may eventually pursue its claim to the self-ruled island by force. It’s an issue likely to be debated at the hearing by committee Chairman Mike Rogers and by Representative Michael Gallagher, who heads the House’s special committee on China.
Committee vice chairman member Rob Wittman, who recently visited Taiwan and met with its top officials, said in a statement that the current backlog is about $14.3 billion, which “is unacceptable,” and a majority of that is for F-16s. “We must do everything we can to support Taiwan” he said.
When it takes more than five years for Taiwan to receive a Patriot missile system or an F-16 jet, Resnick said, “the key problem is certainly not” the State Department’s review process for Foreign military sales or the time for notification to Congress. Instead, she said, “the root cause of delays is insufficient industrial capacity and long production timelines. So industry must also step up and play a key role in these efforts.”
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Resnik also offered a sobering assessment of the economic consequences if shipping lanes in the Taiwan Strait were ever disrupted: She said that would threaten more than 180,000 US jobs.
The first two new F-16s — out of 66 for Taiwan in a potential $8 billion package — were supposed to be delivered by Lockheed Martin Corp. between October and December of this year, but that’s slipped to between July and September of 2024, Taiwanese officials said in May. They added that the US attributed the delay to coronavirus-affected supply chain issues, but the jets also have been dogged by software problems.
On the Patriot system, Resnick was referring to the US proposal in December to sell Taiwan as many as 100 of its most advanced air-defense system, also made by Lockheed, along with radar and support equipment in a deal valued at $882 million. The proposal, made under the provisions of a 2010 sale to the island, wasn’t new but was called an enhancement to an earlier deal.
Earlier: US Upgrades Taiwan Weapons Package With Newer Patriot Missiles
In a separate statement to the House panel, Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said that in addition to proposed arms sales, the Pentagon is working closely with Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense and its All-Out Defense Mobilization Agency on several initiatives.
“We are supporting the integration of Taiwan’s military and civilian agencies on a range of issues from stockpiling of food, medical supplies and energy to hardening key infrastructure nodes,” he said.
(Updates with lawmaker’s comment in fourth paragraph)
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