Bruce Harsh is responsible for Commerce’s Distribution and Supply Chain unit and has been with the Department about 24 years.
America’s economy depends on the health of our country’s supply chain infrastructure. Problems with the supply chain are not readily noticeable until you don’t get the part you need to keep your supply chain in operation, or the gift you were looking for at a store during the holiday season. Not only do supply chain problems make America’s producers and consumers mad, they are clearly linked to our economic recovery and long-term economic growth.
Supply chains don’t just move products and goods, they also support jobs. One recent report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggests that approximately 110 million U.S. jobs or nearly 80 percent of the entire workforce is critically dependent on our supply chain and transportation infrastructure.
This past Monday, leading supply chain stakeholders met in Washington, DC at the joint Department of Commerce-Department of Transportation conference titled, “Game Changers in the Supply Chain Infrastructure: Are We Ready to Play?” to hold a frank discussion with decision-makers on how to deal with current problems that minimize their ability get those products and services to consumers in a timely, safe, and environmentally-friendly manner and to develop a world-class network to reduce the chance of “game changers” thwarting these goals in the future.
The discussion stirred up lots of suggestions and comments. Panelists and audience participants emphasized that restoring America’s manufacturing jobs depends on not just fixing one part of the supply chain infrastructure but to look at these issues from the start at the manufacturer’s factory floor , or field, to the consumer’s house or company facility. They encouraged governmental agencies to come together to develop a holistic, comprehensive national freight policy that promotes the supply chains and assures America’s competitive advantage in the 21st century.
These suggestions were heard and many participants appreciated seeing two secretaries, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, stand together to say they were going to have their agencies work together to meet these goals. Many participants also appreciated hearing leading experts share how they would minimize those “game changers” that produce constraints and chokepoints, and offer ways for the government to encourage innovative information technologies, improve security and resilience, and do all of this in an environmentally sound manner to restore America’s world-class transportation network.