American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Make Haste Slowly – The Inherent Risks of an Electrification of the U.S. Military: Material Inputs, Geopolitics and Cyberattacks

    As governments around the globe continue to push towards carbon neutrality, Alan Howard and Brenda Shaffer, faculty members at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, warn against the hidden dangers of the — rushed — electrification of the U.S. military in a new piece for Foreign Policy.

    Against the backdrop of the Pentagon having commissioned studies to examine increased use of electricity for its vehicles, tanks, ships and planes, the authors caution:

    “Washington has encouraged the electrification of wide swathes of the U.S. economy as a way to encourage greater use of renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions. The U.S. Defense Department, the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. federal government, is now considering pursuing its own wide-scale electrification. Such a step would have profound strategic effects that should cause policymakers to proceed far more cautiously.”

    They argue that while, as the U.S. on the whole pivots towards “electricity and regulating electricity generation in ways that phase out fossil fuels,” a call for electrifying the military may be “intuitive,” but it would also open the military up to significant strategic vulnerabilities.

    Of course, followers of ARPN know that one of the key vulnerabilities lies in our nation’s over-reliance on supplies of critical minerals from adversary nations. Demand for critical minerals will increase exponentially amidst a green energy shift, and the “renewable energy economy’s dependence on limited rare earths and other minerals is likely to unleash a great game for minerals that is already requiring the U.S. government’s attention,” according to the authors.

    Meanwhile, Howard and Shaffer caution that with greater interconnectivity of an energy system comes another inherent danger: the increased risk of cyberattacks, both in terms of electricity generation as well as on an electrified military battlefield, where access to electricity can already be a challenge in its own right depending on the geographic location. Moreover, supply lines could become easy enemy targets, and charging times for battery-powered equipment could hamper military readiness.

    While there is no denying that we find ourselves in the middle of a global energy transition, and the push towards a greener energy future is a given, stakeholders would be well advised to follow the classical adage of “festina lente”“make haste slowly,” particularly when it comes to our national security at a time when current events underscore how quickly geopolitical realities can change.

    The good news is that, at least on the material inputs front, efforts to diversify U.S. supply chains away from adversary nations are gaining momentum, particularly in the wake of the White House’s 100-Day Supply Chain Report which we discussed in-depth in our recent study “Critical Mass,” as well as the U.S. Armed Services Committee’s Bipartisan Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force findings.

    Here’s hoping that this momentum for mineral resource policy reform, which will be a key foundation for successfully transforming the U.S. military in the long run, will not lose steam over the August recess.

  • House Armed Services Committee’s Bipartisan Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force Releases Findings and Recommendations

    On the heels of the recently-released White House 100-Day Supply Chain report, momentum to strengthen U.S. supply chains is building.

    On July 22, 2021 the House Armed Services Committee’s bipartisan Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force, chartered in March of 2021 to “review the industrial base supply chain to identify and analyze threats and vulnerabilities,” released its final report, which includes key findings and policy recommendations.

    Co-chaired by Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), the task force convened a series of round tables with with experts and stakeholders to identify

    “1) the processes by which DOD analyzes supply chain vulnerabilities and develops mitigation strategies; 

    (2) DOD’s processes to prioritize and mitigate identified vulnerabilities; and 

    (3) the steps Congress and others can take to help build resilience against future shocks to the supply chain, both in the near term with respect to selected cases, and over the longer term, leveraging the lessons learned from the initial actions.”

    The report includes six legislative recommendations task force members will submit as amendments for the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) full committee mark up.

    Among them, most notably from an ARPN perspective, were the following:

    “DOD must treat supply chain security as a defense strategic priority. Although DOD conducts assessments for critical supplies and is required by section 2509 of title 10, United States Code, to establish a framework to mitigate risk in the acquisition process, it lacks a comprehensive strategy for the entire supply chain across the Department and the services. The Task Force recommends a statutory requirement for a Department-wide risk assessment strategy and system for continuous monitoring, assessing, and mitigating risk in the defense supply chain.  

    DOD (and the United States more broadly) needs to reduce reliance on adversaries for resources and manufacturing. The defense supply chain presents a national security risk: a significant amount of material in the Defense Industrial Base is sole-sourced from the People’s Republic of China. With the requirement for a strategic framework and illuminating the supply chain, the Department must use this information to work with industry, allies, and partner nations to lessen the reliance on the People’s Republic of China. The Task Force recommends a statutory requirement to identify supplies and materials for major end items that come from adversarial nations and implement a plan to reduce reliance on those nations.

    DOD should strengthen the ability to leverage close ally and partner capabilities through the National Technology and Industrial Base (NTIB). The NTIB is an underutilized forum and should be leveraged to shape policy and partnerships with allies. To reduce reliance on adversaries and expand partnerships, the NTIB will need to help shape global policy. The Task Force recommends updating statutory authority to emphasize the value of a broad collaboration with the NTIB allies beyond acquisition, to strengthen the alliance; directing the NTIB Council to identify particular policies and regulations that could be expanded to the NTIB allies, in order to use the NTIB as a test bed for closer international cooperation and supply chain resiliency; and authorizing an NTIB “International Council” to harmonize industrial base and supply chain security policies. The NTIB countries and other close allies and partners undoubtedly face similar challenges with over-reliance on Chinese and Russian suppliers. Effective policy to reduce the associated supply chain vulnerabilities requires meaningful, sustained dialogue and collaboration. Accordingly, the Task Force encourages the Department’s leaders to prioritize supply chain security policy in bilateral and multilateral discussions. 

    DOD should deploy the full range of American innovation to secure the supply chains involving rare earth elements. This includes diversifying the source of rare earths, minimizing dependence on sources and processes in the People’s Republic of China, seeking global solutions by seeking agreements and collaboration with allies and partners, and increasing relevant capability in the United States. Developing alternative technologies and methods for extraction, processing, and recycling in support of diversification is critical. The Task Force notes research and development is funded by the Department of Energy and Department of Interior and recommends a requirement for the Secretary of Defense to coordinate with both the Secretaries of Energy and Interior to ensure research and development includes the DOD’s interest.”

    The Task Force stresses the common ground between their own findings and recommendations and those included in the Administration’s 100-Day Supply Chain report, including improved communication between stakeholders, and leveraging cooperation with allies and partners, in particular in the framework of the NTIB. From the task force report:

    “Where on-shoring is not feasible or not advantageous, the authors encourage resilience through ‘ally and friend-shoring,’ a construct the Task Force Members endorse. The United States can expand the capacity and capability of the domestic DIB.”

    Against mounting pressures, there is hope that the House task force report, coupled with the findings of the White House’s 100-Day Supply Chain report, will create sufficient momentum to translate recommendations into actual policy, programs and projects to address the nation’s deep shortfalls in Critical Mineral supply.

    The full task force report – including detailed findings and recommendations – can be found here.

    And for a handy compilation of our recent coverage of the 100-Day Supply Chain report, click here.

  • Critical Mass: ARPN Commentary on the White House 100-Day Supply Chain Report & the Importance of Critical Minerals to the U.S. Technology Base

    After years of inertia, the Critical Minerals space has seen a lot of activity lately. While the coronavirus pandemic has exposed significant supply chain vulnerabilities and critical mineral resource dependencies, recent studies have highlighted the mineral intensity of the global pursuit of a low carbon energy future. This week’s developments in Washington — movement on [...]
  • DoD Chapter of 100-Day Supply Chain Report Acknowledges Gateway/Co-product Challenge

    Friends of ARPN will know that “much of our work is grounded in a conviction that the Technology Age is driven by a revolution in materials science – a rapidly accelerating effort that is unlocking the potential of scores of metals and minerals long known but seldom utilized in our tools and technologies.” In this [...]
  • DoD-led “100-Day” Supply Chain Assessment Concludes We Need “All of The Above” Approach to Critical Mineral Resource Security

    Last week, the Biden Administration released the findings of its 100-day supply chain review initiated by Executive Order 14017 – “America’s Supply Chains.” From a Critical Minerals perspective, there is a lot to unpack in the 250-page report, and we’ll be digging into the various chapters and issues over the next few days and weeks. [...]
  • 2019 New Year’s Resolutions for Mineral Resource Policy Reform

    Out with the old, in with the new, they say. It‘s new year‘s resolutions time.  With the end of 2017 having set the stage for potentially meaningful reform in mineral resource policy, we outlined a set of suggested resolutions for stakeholders for 2018 in January of last year.  And while several important steps  were taken [...]
  • New NMA Infographic Visualizes Impact of Overreliance on Foreign Minerals

    The long-awaited Defense Industrial Base report is ringing the alarm on supply chain vulnerabilities for the defense sector. As followers of ARPN will know, some aspects of the issues outlined in the report could be alleviated if the United States had a comprehensive mineral resource strategy and streamlined, updated permitting system for domestic mining projects [...]
  • ARPN Expert Panel Member: Defense Industrial Base Report “A Significant Step Forward for the U.S. Military”

    With the long-awaited Defense Industrial Base report finally released, analysts have begun pouring over the 146-pages-long document. One of the first issue experts to offer commentary in a national publication was Jeff Green, president of Washington, D.C.-based government relations firm J.A. Green & Company, and member of the ARPN panel of experts. Writing for Defense [...]
  • Long-Awaited Defense Industrial Base Report Unveils Significant Strategic Vulnerabilities, Holds Major Implications for Resource Policy

    While September coverage for our blog mostly revolved around two major story lines, i.e. electronic vehicles battery tech and trade, today’s release of the long-awaited Defense Industrial Base Report will likely change this for October — for good reasons. As Peter Navarro, assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing policy, outlines today in a [...]
  • While Some Reforms Fizzled, Enacted NDAA Contains Potentially Precedent-Setting REE Sourcing Provision

    As we have noted, the recently-signed John S. McCain (may he rest in peace) National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (H.R. 5515), stands as a missed opportunity to enact several meaningful mineral resource policy reforms. Nonetheless, one provision of the signed legislation marks an important development for the realm of resource policy – [...]