SMASH and Exemption Requests

Grind for February 9th
“The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.” – HL Mencken

Not So Fast

The Headline

US Army experiments with “smart rifle”

The Grind

The US Army is evaluating new firearm technology that prevents a gun from shooting until it detects a guaranteed hit.

The system, known as “SMASH,” was developed by SIG Sauer and Smart Shooter as part of the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Fire Control competition.

“[SMASH] allows you to acquire, lock on, and engage targets,” explains Smart Shooter’s Devin Schweiss. The gun uses image processing AI to scan for and identify targets. If the trigger is squeezed before the shot is lined up, the gun won’t fire.

The system is designed to locate stationary and moving targets during daytime or nighttime conditions. Soldiers can fire the weapon at any time without engaging the SMASH feature.

If Army brass decide they like the new tech, SMASH will be used by infantry brigade combat teams as soon as 2023.

The Details

SMASH is designed to reduce accidents and stray shots, but the downsides are obvious:

— What happens when soldiers become used to weapons that aim for them and are forced into situations where they must rely on traditional firearms?

— What happens when AI technology fails or is responsible for a wrongful death?

— What happens when a soldier accidentally engages SMASH but needs to fire quickly without a target lock?

I don’t doubt the Army’s good intentions here, but our ongoing reliance on technology in the face of growing cyberwarfare is bound to cause problems in the future.

Do It Yourself

The Headline

Small businesses struggle as tariff-exemption requests are denied

The Grind

Trump Administration officials are granting just 3% of tariff-exemption requests for Chinese imports, down from 35% during the last round of levies.

The tariffs have been imposed in four rounds and are still in effect despite the Phase 1 trade deal signed by Presidents Trump and Xi on January 15th.

The first two rounds imposed a 25% tariff on $50 billion in goods including plastic and electronic components.

“These are particular valves or pieces of technology that we just can’t get anywhere else,” argues supply chain analyst Chris Rogers.

The Details

The third round of tariffs imposed a 25% fee on $200 billion in imports including furniture, luggage, and wood products; the fourth round added a 15% fee on $120 billion in goods including apparel, plastic ware, and sporting goods.

More than 4,500 US companies filed exemptions during the fourth round, with most filing multiple exemptions and claiming they had no realistic or cost-effective alternative to the Chinese imports.

In total, Trump Administration officials have denied roughly 26,300 requests.

Healthway Family of Brands sought 11 exemptions for Chinese components it uses to build air cleaners in New York. When the requests were denied, Healthway was forced to lay off 8 workers and cancel a $2 million expansion.

“When you set a supply chain up like that, it’s just very hard to just shift and move and set up a supply chain somewhere else,” says Healthway President Vinny Lobdell Jr.

Florida-based company Gator Cases, which imports some of its audio equipment from China, filed nine exemption requests this year. All were denied without explanation.

“I have to tell you, I was really shocked,” says Gator spokesperson Crystal Morris. “I thought we had put together a good appeal…It really talked about the fact that our products are for musicians and are going into schools and education. We were pretty disappointed that they were denied because obviously it’s hurting our business with margins and it’s causing us to push some price increases.”

Did you know… Scientists in Germany have developed a candy that doesn’t cause cavities.