So you’re probably asking… “Why is a defense guy at a wind energy trade show?” Well, it’s a long story. In the interest of maintaining my (already miniscule) readership, I’ll spare you the details and get to the point: the US manufacturing base is getting our butts kicked in a big-time emerging industry.
For those who live solely in the world of defense contracting, things don’t always seem so bad. With made in the US requirements, the DoD manages to keep some of our advanced manufacturing base in business. After this week at the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) annual trade show, I’ve got a little less swagger. Walking the floor at AWEA felt more like a China-Europe expo with a nod to the American host country. Nearly all of the major OEM’s hail from Europe, and the Chinese have come a long way in a very short period of time in the metals business.
Granted, the US was late to the wind game, and the industry here is just getting started. What concerns me isn’t our trailing position in renewable energy (although that’s important). My worry is just how much of the fundamental stuff is now being done elsewhere.
If we want a healthy defense industry base, our manufacturers must have more customers than the DoD. Seeing all those Chinese made ring bearings and gearboxes made my heart sink a little. While a wind turbine is no F-22, there’s a lot more long-term money in it. It would sure be nice if our manufacturers had something like this to keep their cash flow healthy. Such economies of scale might just benefit Uncle Sam a little, too.
[Steps off soapbox]