In his latest piece for Real Clear World, American Resources principal Dan McGroarty reviews the Department of Defense’s just-released National Defense Stockpile Report to Congress against the backdrop of our mineral dependencies. According to McGroarty, the report reflects a re-thinking on the part of the Pentagon, where, less than a year ago, researchers downplayed the United States’ dependence particularly on Rare Earths – a widely-criticized assessment that was labeled “naïve” and “ill-informed” by experts at the time.
(…) after two decades of this post-Cold War experience, a new realization is dawning: Shifts in global metal production have produced a situation in which the U.S. is extraordinarily dependent on foreign-sourced metals and minerals. For the Pentagon, increasingly dependent on the metal-intensive weapons systems of a modern military, this foreign dependence is a dangerous exposure — a weakness that can be exploited in time of conflict.
The new report finds “shortfalls – insufficient supply to meet demand – for approximately a third of these [the 72 metals and minerals studied in the report] materials,” and goes on to recommend nine metals for stockpiling in the near term.
Invoking the challenges associated with China controlling much of the global output of many critical minerals and metals, McGroarty points out that contrary to other mining nations like Australia, the United States’ rigid permitting process would prevent mining operation for any of the 23 key resources identified by the Pentagon in the new report from completing the permitting process – a scary scenario from a national defense perspective.
“The question now, in a Washington where the government is funded from month-to-month, and strategic thinkers are savants who see an hour into the next news cycle, is whether the U.S. Government can muster a sustained policy to reverse our metals dependency — before the shortfalls posited in the Pentagon’s hypothetical scenarios become all too real.”