Senior executives from a major U.S. defense contractor toured China last month as part of their search for a foreign company to build a dry dock for U.S. Navy ships, with the help of the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The trip raised eyebrows both inside the Pentagon and among experts who don’t believe a Chinese company should be involved in U.S. military-related projects.
The company, Ingalls Shipbuilding, is a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, which advertises itself as “America’s largest military shipbuilding company” and has built more U.S. Navy ships than any other military shipbuilder. Ingalls is based in Mississippi. The problem is, it needs a new dry dock to build ships there and says there are no American companies that can do it. So Ingalls is looking abroad for help.
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As a former US naval officer, I have mixed feelings about this. It would be great if we could start getting along with China again. But if we can't, it's not a good idea to depend on them for stuff like this.
By the way, there are lots of things US companies cannot do any more. One of them is to build large pressure vessels for reactors at nuclear power plants. We allowed the US nuclear industry to slowly die off after Three Mile Island, and I doubt it will ever come back.