It’s Official: Feds Required To Report To Congress On Rare Earths In The US Defense Supply Chain

Sun, Nov 1, 2009

Industry News, Materials

As I’ve posted about extensively here at Terra Magnetica, the US National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 contained language that required that the Federal government look at the role of rare earth materials in the US defense supply chain. Earlier this week, the bill was finally signed into law by President Obama.

Section 843 includes language from the original House Bill used almost verbatim in the final law.  It requires that

“not later than April 1, 2010, the Comptroller General shall submit to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives a report on rare earth materials in the supply chain of the Department of Defense”.

The law states that the report must address, at a minimum, the following:

  1. An analysis of the current and projected domestic and worldwide availability of rare earths for use in defense systems, including an analysis of projected availability of these materials in the export market.
  2. An analysis of actions or events outside the control of the Government of the United States that could restrict the access of the Department of Defense to rare earth materials, such as past procurements and attempted procurements of rare earth mines and mineral rights.
  3. A determination as to which defense systems are currently dependent on, or projected to become dependent on, rare earth materials, particularly neodymium iron boron magnets, whose supply could be restricted (A) by actions or events identified pursuant to paragraph (2); or (B) by other actions or events outside the control of the Government of the United States.
  4. The risk to national security, if any, of the dependencies (current or projected) identified pursuant to paragraph (3).
  5. Any steps that the Department of Defense has taken or is planning to take to address any such risk to national security.
  6. Such recommendations for further action to address the matters covered by the report as the Comptroller General considers appropriate.

The law defines the term `rare earth’ to mean the lanthanoids (atomic numbers 57-71) plus yttrium and scandium. The anomalous reference to thorium as a rare earth in the earlier language of the bill, is now absent.  The term `rare earth material’ includes rare earth ores, semi-finished rare earth products, and components containing rare earth materials.

Having just attended the Critical & Strategic Metals Conference in Washington, DC, I was struck by anecdotes from government employees, on how timeframes of 9 months and longer, for not dissimilar reports, were not enough time to do their work as well as they would have liked.  April 1, 2010 is only 5 months away. Are these guys going to be able to do a thorough-enough job, to get Congress the information it needs?

We shall see.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 67 posts on Terra Magnetica.

Gareth is a Founding Principal at Technology Metals Research, LLC. He has expertise in a variety of magnetic materials, devices and applications, and their associated trends and challenges, particularly for renewable energy production. For more information check out his biography page. Don't forget to check out Terra Magnetica at Twitter too.

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    1. […] GAO will report back to the executive branch by April 2010. Our friends over at Terra Magnetica also covered this story and asked the question, “Will 5-6 months be long enough to review the […]

    2. […] above. The big issue is rare earths. China is currently overwhelmingly the largest supplier of rare earths in the world, with well over 90% market share. Rare earths are essential to produce the magnets […]