In late January, I testified in support of S.1600 — the Critical Minerals Policy Act — before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Chaired by Senator Wyden and Ranking Member Murkowski. I focused on the lack of a clear definition of critical materials, on America’s inability to process many of the critical materials we actually have, the importance of materials research and development, and — a key issue for the manufacturing supply chain — the weak state of fundamental materials science education in the U.S.
The Committee focused on the criticality of some materials, especially but not exclusively rare earths, to our weapon systems, and on the influence of China on availability of these materials. Written questions sent after the testimony have centered on ways in which the various federal agencies with interests in critical materials might actually work together toward improving critical materials availability. I’ve been involved in critical metals policy and research for a long while, and at a time when Congress seems to agree on very little, there appears to be strong bi-partisan support for the Critical Minerals Policy Act. Passage would be a strong sign that the U.S. Government understands that critical minerals access is key to our economic strength, technological progress, and national security.
Dr. Latiff is Research Professor and Director of the Intelligence and Security Research Center at George Mason University. He retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Major General in 2006.