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Rare Earth Elements in National Defense

(5) A physical description of alternative sources of supply with corresponding geologic characteristics, such as grade, resource size, and the amenability of that feedstock to metallurgical processing;

(6) A description of the materials that the Department plans to obtain via the Defense Priorities and Allocations System; and

(7) Other diversification of supply activities deemed relevant by the Under Secretary.3

The second directive requires DOD to perform an assessment of the potential for incorporating the substitution of non-rare earth materials into components of the Joint Strike Fighter, based on the supply chain challenges faced in securing components containing rare earth materials.

Report on the Implementation of Rare Earth Elements Strategy in the Joint

Strike Fighter Program

The committee is aware that the Department of Defense intends to pursue a three-pronged strategy to secure supplies of rare earth elements, which consists of diversification of supply, pursuit of substitutes, and a focus on reclamation of waste as part of a larger U.S. Government recycling effort. However, it remains unclear how this strategy will be implemented in the Department’s major defense acquisition programs (MDAPs). Several high-profile MDAPs, including the F-35 Lightening II program, may use significant amounts of rare earth elements in full-rate production. The committee is concerned that the introduction of substitute materials and components may increase acquisition and sustainment costs through the qualification of manufacturers for substitutes, implementation of engineering changes to accommodate substitutes, and the long-term costs associated with supplier networks.

Therefore, the committee directs the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, in coordination with the Program Executive Officer for the F-35, to submit a report to the congressional defense committees by February 15, 2014, on the potential for substitution of components and materials into F-35 aircraft to reduce consumption of rare earth materials. The report, which may include a classified annex, should include the following:

(1) A list and description of subsystems that contain rare earth elements and the approximate quantities of each rare earth element by subsystem;

(2) An assessment of the potential to incorporate substitute components or materials in each subsystem based on technical acceptability, to include consideration of performance requirements, and engineering changes that may be necessary for integration of the substitute; and

(3) An assessment of the potential to incorporate substitute components or materials in each subsystem based on cost acceptability to include consideration of material costs, qualification and testing costs, and engineering change costs. 4

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  • H.

    Rept. 113-102, to accompany H.R. 1960, the proposed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.

  • H.

    Rept. 113-102, to accompany H.R. 1960, the proposed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.

Congressional Research Service

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