In a new commentary for Investor’s Business Daily, ARPN principal Daniel McGroarty warns of “America’s unilateral disarmament in the resource wars.”
Invoking the world of Marvel comics, in which Vibranium is the imaginary metal used for Captain America’s shield, IronMan’s exoskeleton, and Black Panther’s energy-absorbing suit, McGroarty argues that the 21st Century American warrior (perhaps best exemplified by the SEALs, the U.S. Navy’s elite special operations force) is facing a real world problem:
“When today’s SEAL goes into combat, he takes one-quarter of the Periodic Table with him.
The problem is, unlike the comic book world, these metals and minerals can’t be imagined — they must be mined and refined into advanced materials.”
McGroarty cites the U.S. Geological Survey, which has found that a Navy SEAL’s gear contains at least 23 critical minerals and metals “for which the U.S. is greater than 50% net import reliant.” However, as he points out, “[i]t gets worse: for 11 of them, our dependence is total — the U.S. produces zero. And for 15, the world’s leading producer is China, a nation that the 2017 U.S. National Defense Strategy identifies as presenting a ‘central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security.’”
Followers of ARPN will know that the U.S. Government has begun to acknowledge the challenges associated with our over-reliance on foreign minerals, but policy changes that would ultimately address our strategic materials vulnerability have yet to be put forward.
Meanwhile, one of the United States’ biggest adversaries on the global scale is not only acutely aware of the issue of resource dependence, it is cultivating its growing role as global tech metal provider — leading McGroarty to invoke Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, who 2,500 years ago hailed the ability to “subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”
“This dictum from the ‘Art of War’ raises an urgent question: Could it be that China’s rising role as a technology metal provider — while the U.S. military becomes more and more dependent on metals and minerals we produce less and less of — is an asymmetry China is cultivating with an eye towards exploiting it in time of conflict?
Because the fact is it won’t matter how razor-sharp skilled and implacably dedicated our forces are, if the U.S. Defense Industrial Base lacks the materials needed to provide them the weapons they need for the fight.”
Last week, Simon Moores, managing director for Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and member of the ARPN panel of experts members may have used fewer imagery and focused more specifically on battery tech metals when briefing the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources – but his warning was equally stern:
“We are in the midst of a global battery arms race in which the US is presently a bystander.”
Here’s hoping that our policy makers will finally take action to address what has become – in the words of Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski – our “Achilles’ heel that serves to empower and enrich other nations, while costing us jobs and international competitiveness.”
How policy makers move forward in the coming months will be critical, because, as McGroarty points out:
“Unlike Marvel Comics or the movies, we can’t make up the metals superheroes need to triumph over evil. If we want our real-world warfighters to keep their edge over America’s enemies, it’s time we mine those metals right here at home.”