U.S. military seen too reliant on foreign suppliers for spare parts

April 30, 1991|By San Francisco Chronicle

America's growing dependence on foreign suppliers for spare parts already may be causing some problems for the military.

An industry newsletter quotes Bush administration sources as saying extraordinary lengths had to be taken to get parts from Japanese companies before the gulf war.

"We should not blame the Japanese -- we've had years of warnings about this and we didn't pay attention," said Stas Margaronis, editor of SAM Trade, an international newsletter from California. "We figured it didn't make a difference who made a commercial component -- but it did."

Several authorities on military and Japanese matters said in interviews yesterday that they were aware of the supply crisis. "I understand that it required extraordinary action, and our government had to go hat in hand to the Japanese Embassy in order to get certain things supplied," said Richard Van Atta, director for technology policy at the Institute for Defense Analyses, an Alexandria, Va.

Several Japanese electronics companies refused to provide defense contractors with rush orders of key components, according to an article scheduled for the newsletter.

Quoting a high-ranking but unnamed Bush administration source, the newsletter is saying the U.S. government "had to jump through hoops" to secure Japanese high-tech components used in weapons systems.

The Japanese electronics companies reportedly said they could not curtail existing commercial contracts, such as orders for VCRs. Experts on Japan say the companies probably were afraid of the domestic political ramifications of favoring military over commercial customers.

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