Defense officials are increasingly concerned China is using the coronavirus crisis to gain stakes in strategically important businesses as the pandemic leaves struggling companies urgently in need of capital.
But even as the Defense Department works to improve supply security, procurement experts warn that the Pentagon may not have the visibility required to vet or help protect smaller companies down the chain. They say the job is only getting harder as the pandemic has broadened the definition of national security interests to include medical supplies. And they point to at least one Chinese-owned company that asked to bid on a Pentagon contract.
"We have to be very, very careful about the focused efforts some of our adversaries have to really undergo sort of economic warfare with us, which has been going on for some time," Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters in April.
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