Today, the Defense Department released the Strategic and Critical Materials 100-day Sector Review, as directed by Executive Order 14017. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III released the following statement:
“Strategic and critical materials are vital to our national defense and economic prosperity, enabling the United States to develop and sustain emerging technologies. They also improve our warfighting capability, support family-sustaining jobs, and strengthen our alliances and partnerships. Though there is more work to be done, the Department of Defense remains committed to a whole-of-government approach to preserve our access to strategic and critical materials. This is important not only for our national defense, but to ensure our national economic well-being.”
The department defines strategic and critical minerals as those that support military and essential civilian industry; and are not found or produced in the United States in quantities to meet our needs. Like many other supply chains, much of the strategic and critical materials sector has moved offshore. Some of this reflects normal, comparative advantage or quirks of geologic fate. But, in some cases, other countries have deliberately put a hand on the scale to capture market-share, and our industry has followed close behind — in a global race to the bottom.
The concentration of global supply chains for strategic and critical materials in China creates risk of disruption and of politicized trade practices, including the use of forced labor. Though DoD has requirements for strategic and critical materials, the civilian economy would bear the brunt of the harm from a supply disruption event.
Overall, the recommendations presented by DoD are intended to attack the supply and demand side of the strategic and critical materials question at the same time.