As America gets back into the swing of things after suffering from a collective “post-Thanksgiving rut,” James Clad, former deputy assistant Secretary of Defense and current Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC, provides a good recap of why we need to get our resource policy house in order from a national security perspective in a piece for InsideSources.
Invoking DoD’s recently released Defense Industrial Base Report, Clad says “U.S. military manufacturing and the military materials supply chain have succumbed to a crippling dependence on overseas imports.”
He argues that “the challenges faced by our defense industrial base ad supply chain can largely be traced back to successive missteps and omissions,” pointing specifically to unpredictable federal budgeting and the overall erosion of industrial capability and capacity – and specifically the erosion of our mining sector:
“Once as robust as our manufacturing, the impediments to U.S. domestic mining offers a prime example of what the Defense report now deems unacceptable. The tech-driven economy seems quintessentially and primarily American in origin and impact, but its dependence on esoteric minerals and metals from all corners of the Periodic Table has become glaring. Rare earth mineral imports by the United States have soared in recent years — with customers forced to deal with Chinese production and export monopolies.
This import reliance makes a sharp contrast to America’s resource position, which remains bountiful.”
At ARPN, we have long called for a comprehensive and strategic approach to mineral resource policy. Clad makes an important point, addressing a valid concern some may have regarding comprehensive policy-setting agendas:
“As a country, we remain suspicious of top-down “industrial policy,” seeing it as snuffing out enterprise, not saving it. But we cannot doubt the impact of someone’s industrial policy — China’s industrial policy, that is.
Within our market economy, there must surely be ways to think out a strategic industrial rescue effort, mapping American vulnerabilities and then crafting a multi-faceted approach to resuscitate industries and key suppliers now being pushed to the brink. This doesn’t mean pampering domestic sole suppliers but, rather, a renewed commitment to improving American competitiveness.
This means revisiting our often adversarial approach to heavy and extractive industry, without throwing environmental safeguards overboard. Current technology actually enables the strengthening of environmental safeguards and can reduce lengthy approval procedures. Preserving America’s advanced technology requires revisiting some self-imposed barriers to U.S. domestic minerals investment. Other western nations manage to combine environmental protection with speeding up the permitting process — often taking just two or three years in Australia and Canada. There is a middle way.”
His bottom line is an urgent call to action:
“Action can’t come soon enough. For the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, we find ourselves facing renewed great power competition. Ensuring we are up to the challenge means rebuilding our military industrial base. We have awoken to the vulnerabilities decades of neglect have imposed, addressing them must start with undoing our self-imposed barriers to competitiveness.”