Steel imports threaten our national security

The Hill

American steelworkers, their families, and steel producers across our country have long known two simple truths: 

  • 1 - The strength of our national security is invariable linked to the strength of our domestic steel industry, and;
  • 2 - Illegal steel imports are decimating our steel production capabilities. 

Because of these two truths, the outcome of the Trump administration’s Section 232 steel import investigation is already well known to steel producing communities. Every extra day that we wait for it to be completed, and for subsequent action to be taken, is another day that illegal steel imports threaten our national security, the strength of our steel industry, and the jobs that are the backbone of our economy.  

As the ranking member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and the vice chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, I hope that this investigation moves forward as expeditiously as possible and that President Trump takes decisive action to support American steelworkers and our ability to defend our nation.

Just this past month, the U.S. Navy christened the future USS Indiana, which will be our country’s 16th Virginia-class submarine.  American steelworkers and American steel producers were integral components of creating this submarine. They melted and poured to specification the steel that will be used to protect our brave sailors. They assembled with utmost precision the components of this incredible piece of machinery that through its missions will defend our nation and keep our citizens safe. This vessel is a shining example of why we need to do everything possible to support and strengthen our domestic steel and manufacturing base for the sake of our national security. 

And it is just one example. Twenty-two tons of steel are used in every U.S. Abrams tank. Fifty-five thousand tons of steel are used in every U.S. aircraft carrier, and half of that steel is produced in Northwest Indiana.  Specialty steel is also critically important for a variety of military applications, including aerospace grade titanium and high strength stainless steels for missile warheads, and ultra-high temperature refractory alloys for thrusters and boosters on missile systems. 

As the new U.S. Navy vessel carries the proud name of Indiana, it is a reminder of not just the great amount of steel that is made in this state, but also the incredible amount of research that takes place there on how to make steel better.  This research allows the 142,000 people directly employed in the steel industry, as well as the 1 million people with jobs supported by the industry, to do their jobs better and improve the products that are the foundation of our national economy and our national security.    

For example, because of the research undertaken at the Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation at Purdue University Northwest, as well as at other research facilities in Indiana and across our nation, we are constantly learning how to make steel more efficiently and with less impact on the environment.  Specifically, the American Iron and Steel Institute reports that labor productivity in the American steel industry has improved five-fold since the early 1980s. In 2016, it only took 1.9 worker hours to produce a ton of steel.  They have also reported that since 1990, energy intensity per ton of steel produced has decreased by 31 percent and carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by 36 percent per ton of steel. The challenges of the American steel industry are not of their own making, as they have constantly strived to continue to make a superior product in our global market. 

Some have argued that action resulting from the Section 232 investigation will start a trade war. In response, I would point out that there are 700 million tons of excess steel capacity in the world that is able to be dumped on our shores. Additionally, according to the Department of Commerce, there are currently 191 antidumping and countervailing duty orders on steel and steel-related products from 33 countries. This accounts for half of all current orders, and there are also 20 ongoing steel and steel-related product investigations. 

We are already in the middle of a trade war. By the time these trade cases come to fruition, the jobs have already been lost and the factories closed. We need decisive action now. Every day that we delay, steel imports continue to threaten our national security. I hope that the Section 232 steel investigation is completed as soon as possible and that President Trump takes decisive action to protect and support the American steel industry and the invaluable services they provide to keep our country safe.