Rare Earth Elements in National Defense
2013 Strategic and Critical Materials Report on Stockpile Requirements
The Secretary of Defense is required to report to Congress, on a biannual basis, recommendations on defense planning and projections for stockpile requirements (the availability of supplies of strategic and critical materials) under certain national emergency planning assumptions.13 This report outlines the current state of strategic and critical materials for defense use, and the proposed mitigation strategies. These strategies include stockpiling, substitution with other materials, export reductions, and increasing procurement.14 This report found that of the 76 materials evaluated for the potential for shortfalls (as defined as insufficiently reliable production to meet demands), 23 materials were found to represent a potential shortfall. This study included all rare earth elements, except promethium. Six rare earth element shortfalls were identified: they are: yttrium, dysprosium, erbium, terbium, thulium, and scandium. 15
Department of Defense Report Responding to Section 843
DOD released a seven-page report in March 2012.16 The report stated that “Seven of the 17 rare earth elements were found to meet the criteria established in Section 843.”17 They are dysprosium, erbium, europium, gadolinium, neodymium, praseodymium, and yttrium. DOD’s assessment of the forecast for a domestic supply for key rare earths concluded: “by 2012 U.S. production (for seven rare earths used in military applications) could satisfy the level of consumption required to meet defense procurement needs, with the exception of yttrium.”18
In an April 2012 interview with Bloomberg News, the DOD head of industrial policy confirmed that DOD uses less than 5% of rare earths used in the United States, and that DOD was closely monitoring the rare earth materials market for any projected shortfalls or failures to meet mission requirements. Brett Lambert, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy, suggested that if material shortages were projected, DOD would seek congressional approval to stockpile materials. Other measures could include the use of contingency contracting to meet DOD requirements. 19
13 Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. Strategic and Critical Materials 2013 Report on Stockpile Requirements. January 2013. Accessed online at http://mineralsmakelife.org/assets/images/ content/resources/Strategic_and_Critical_Materials_2013_Report_on_Stockpile_Requirements.pdf.
Ibid., pages 5-6. Ibid., Figure 3. Six Rare Earth Shortfalls in the 2013 NDS Base Case, p. 5.
16 According to DOD, this report was prepared in response to Section 843 of P.L. 111-83 and S.Rept. 111-201. S.Rept. 111-201 accompanied S. 3454, the Senate-proposed National Defense Authorization Act for 2011.
17 U.S. Department of Defense. Report to Congress - Rare Earth Materials in Defense Applications. Frank Kendall, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, March 12, 2012, p. 4.
Ibid., p. 4.
19 Ratnam, Gopal. Rare Earth Shortage Would Spur Pentagon to Action. Bloomberg News, April 9, 2012, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-09/rare-earths-shortage-would-spur-pentagon-to-action.html.
Congressional Research Service