Against the backdrop of growing threats to U.S. security – recent flash points involve Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea – a new Presidential Executive Order “On Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States,” zeroes in on defense readiness. The E.O. requires heads from various cabinet departments to submit to the President policy recommendations for strengthening the U.S. defense industrial base.
The problem, as ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty outlines in a new commentary for Investors Business Daily, runs far deeper than scenarios in which “there is only one U.S. company that can repair submarine propellers – (…) Our metals and minerals dependency on foreign sources of supply is great and growing.”
ARPN followers are familiar with the overall picture: According to the U.S. Geological Survey, we are 100% reliant on foreign imports for 20 metals and minerals. For another 50, we are more than 50% import dependent – with China being a leading supplier for 28 of the 50.
McGroarty points to fused aluminum oxide to underscore the severity of the situation, arguing that “there’s nothing quite like a raw material shortage to bring the lengthiest supply chain to a standstill:”
While we are more than 75% import dependent for our annual domestic fused aluminum oxide supply, according to USGS, defense-grade aluminum fused oxide is even harder to come by, leaving our import dependency for this material at 100%, with the world’ leading providers being China and Venezuela – none of which are the poster children of reliable trading partners.
“In announcing the Executive Order, Navarro noted that it ‘does not silo defense, the economy and trade and the workforce,’ but embraces ‘all the interconnections between a strong manufacturing base, a strong industrial base, a strong workforce … that strengthen our tax base which … allows us to buy the material and weapons.’
A fine and expansive statement, to which we should make a one-word amendment: Instead of buying the strategic materials used in U.S. weapons platforms, whenever we can, we should be mining that material here at home.
And that requires reversing the slide that has seen the U.S.’s share of global mining exploration investment in steady decline the past two decades, even as the length of the federal permitting process has doubled. Here, we need not wait for the President’s Defense Industrial Base report; we should press for passage of critical minerals legislation now before the Congress, with meaningful permitting reform.”
McGroarty has additional suggestions as to what can be done to foster a policy environment conducive to harnessing our nation’s arguably vast mineral potential, and calls for the realization of the strategic importance of mainstay metals like Copper, which in the tech metal era, serve as “Gateway metals” to other critical minerals.
“Defense readiness has long been a key bulwark of American strength — and worrying about it has an equally lengthy pedigree. In his oft-quoted farewell address, in a largely overlooked passage, President Dwight Eisenhower warned: ‘We can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense.’ That was 1961, at the height of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War.
In 2017, with threats emanating from Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang and Tehran, this is one instance where it would pay for America to Be Like Ike.”
The time for a strategic overhaul of our mineral resource policy is now.