Aviation Week contributor extraordinaire Mike Fabey has an article this week about a recent congressional auditor assessment of U.S. the military’s rare-earths situation, and it is not very encouraging.
“Current capabilities to process rare earth metals into finished materials are limited mostly to Chinese sources,” congressional auditors said in their April 14 report, “Rare Earth Materials in the Defense Supply Chain.” Moreover, U.S. defense systems will likely continue to depend on rare earth materials, based on their life cycles and lack of effective substitutes, the GAO said.
The Defense National Stockpile maintains and manages strategic and critical materials and the Pentagon is in the early stages of assessing its dependency on rare earth materials and is planning to complete its study by the end of September.
While I doubt that report will play too prominently in upcoming congressional elections, it is more fuel for the fire. Indeed, lawmakers also are planning a hearing on the GAO’s report. Bloomberg reported that House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) said he would call for an inquiry, and ranking Republican Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (Calif.) backed Skelton’s call. “We are aware of China’s attempt to monopolize this type of material but there are alternatives to that,” Skelton said April 14.
Summer in Washington is looking like it will be hotter and hotter every day.