Evaluating Manufacturing USA

Back in 2014, Congress wisely opted to try a new approach for revitalizing American manufacturing:  the Manufacturing USA Network.  Manufacturing USA is a public-private network of 14 Manufacturing Institutes that fund and promote research in key disciplines related to manufacturing.  Current institutes include centers that focus on additive manufacturing (America Makes), advanced robotics (ARM), sustainable manufacturing (REMADE), and many other sectors.  To date, the Institutes have been highly successful.   Recent evaluations have been very positive, and they are being considered for future expansion, via new efforts such as the Defense Manufacturing Communities support program.   We now have a new Manufacturing Institute evaluation from the Government Accountability Office—something of an in-house government look at the how the Institutes are doing.  GAO is also bullish on the programs, finding that they are making good progress.  GAO also recommends a greater focus on the long-term sustainability of these programs, especially on how they can attract more private sector funding.  The positive assessments are helpful, but I also hope that GAO, Congress, and various federal agencies recognize that a sustained funding commitment will be required to make Manufacturing USA work.  Assuming that these programs can be “self-sustaining” in five years is a mistake that will not only affect individual institutes, but will also hamper the ongoing revitalization of American manufacturing.  If manufacturing is key to “making America great again,” it’s important enough to continue investing our tax dollars for this important mission.