Rare Earths Shortage Would Spur Pentagon, Defense Dept. to Action

PentagonApril 9, 2012 (Source: Bloomberg) — The Defense Department would intervene in case of a shortage of rare earth materials for defense electronics and motors, Brett Lambert, the Pentagon official responsible for industrial policy, said.

“If we see restrictions, we would look to activate one of many measures, including contingency contracting” that lets U.S. defense contractors buy materials on behalf of the Pentagon, Lambert, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing and industrial base policy, said today in an interview. “The tripwire” for such action is “if we are unable to meet requirements.”

Even at the height of export restrictions placed by China in 2010, there was no evidence that U.S. defense contractors faced such shortages, Lambert said. China, the world’s largest producer of rare earth materials accounting for at least 90 percent of the global supply, cut export quotas by 72 percent that year, sending prices of some materials up more than sixfold.

The global market responded to those restrictions as new producers such as Molycorp Inc. (MCP) of the U.S. and Lynas Corp. of Australia emerged. “Prices of materials have fallen dramatically,” Lambert said.

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The U.S. defense industry’s consumption of rare earth materials accounts for less than 5 percent of the nation’s annual use, Lambert said. A report prepared by his office and sent to Congress last month said domestic rare earth supplies will meet defense needs by 2013. To prepare the report, the Pentagon created a database of which materials went into what components and of available alternatives, he said.

17 Materials

The 17 materials include elements such as neodymium, samarium and dysprosium that also go into commercial products, including hybrid batteries, mobile phones and computer hard drives.

Congress required the Pentagon last year to examine the use of rare earth materials in defense applications, determine if non-U.S. supplies might be disrupted, and suggest ways to ensure long-term availability, as well as secure an assured source of supply by 2015.

Rare earth materials go into making high-powered magnets that are used in defense electronics and are usually ordered 24 months to 36 months in advance of weapons systems being delivered to the Pentagon, Lambert said.

The Pentagon is “continuously monitoring” the market for rare earth materials and if it notices an emerging shortage the Defense Department may also seek additional approval from Congress to stockpile the material, Lambert said.

  1. Is the pentagon basing their military REE needs on relative “peace time” conditions, or big time military conflict?
    The middle east is ripe for “Armagedon” USA/Israel v. China and “surrogate” Iran?
    When exactly is the USA going to progress beyond the 50 million dollar “glossy DOE reports” and get down to the ground level in this REE war?
    Whwn did America take over the third world status, and China become the advanced high technology driven world dominant power?
    Was I asleep?
    What about the DOD? Or is this article more USA denial of realities and more CYA strategy?
    Not buying anything within this article as factual.

  2. Doctor!
    Put de lime in de coconut, drink’em boat togeder
    Put de lime in de coconut, drink ‘em boat down
    an put a little rum in dere too
    den you’ll feel better
    I’m a writin’ a treatise on US foreign policy
    an’ I’ll post it in da mo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ornin’

  3. Thank you for your insight and joining me on this particular blog site.
    Feeling alone at a time of trouble is never a good thing and I appreciate and respect your comments.
    Having spent a few months in the Carribean decades ago I enjoyed the “relaxed” Calypso style of music and life. All that seems so distant to me faced with the challenges the “free world” finds themselves?
    Your comment inspires me to “be more relaxed” be more “laissez-faire”.
    Is “laissez-faire” the kind of world we as world citizens been thrust? I think not. Anything but. How do you feel?
    Wikipedia: “In economics, laissez-faire (English pronunciation: /?l?se??f??r/ ( listen), French: [l?sef??] ( listen)) is an environment in which transactions between private parties are free from state intervention, including regulations, taxes, tariffs and enforced monopolies. The phrase laissez-faire is French and literally means “let do”, but it broadly implies “let it be”, or “leave it alone.” A laissez-faire state and completely free market has never existed.[1]”
    Is that the world in which we live right now?
    Right now do you feel we are being pushed as free society by the clash of economic and military powers?
    By whom? for whom?
    What is the President and his assistant’s doing in regard to protecting our freedoms and/or prosperity?
    What is the Pentagon doing?
    Can we rest safely at night, knowing the Pentagon’s men and women have what they need to do the right thing? Or is the Pentagon’s mission conflicted and flawed in fundamental ways?
    If the Pentagon mission is conflicted and have a relative deficiency in basic strategic metals, including military grade REES, then what happens?
    Perhaps our Chinese “benevolent uncle” shall protect our freedoms?
    Oh, I forgot for an instant “personal freedoms” does not hit China’s top 10 goals for its own citizens, much less ours?
    “Always tell a person by the friends they keep”? Oh yes China’s surrogates North Korea and Iran. Why beneficial qualities do they possess that serve China’s self interest? What intermediary role does China perform in helping their friends?
    How do Americans, or anyone for that matter, know where governments are doing behind closed doors?
    In a free society why not read world’s new sources? New York Times, Washington Times. Also Japan news? South Korean news? China Daily? Aljazeera news? Wikileaks? UK Telegraph? Come to our own conclusions?
    Why doesn’t our government tell us directly of the perilous times in which we live?
    Here are a few references by URL. Perhaps of some interest to you?
    Kind regards,
    Kind regards. Let me know your take. Always enjoy your inputs.

  4. My take is that much like that of the idealistic Christopher Robin. I endeavor to ask for guidance from the likes of Owl rather than from those with the diminished points of view of Pooh, Piglet or Eeyore. I am a child of the universe AND I have the fervent hope that the leaders of the world will agree to take-the-high-road together to tackle the problems facing the entire world. Holding onto the ideology of dog-eat-dog will end badly for all.

  5. Agree.
    I am naturally an optimist and perhaps have a tendency to trust too much.
    A common problem I see among western “capitalistic” leaders, is their tendency to extrapolate their own thought of “western capitalism” upon others.
    The Kiwi bird is a fascinating, largely defenseless “land bird”. Big body. Little wings. Searches the ground in front of them, many times unaware of predators.
    New Zealanders refer to themselves as Kiwis? Not sure why?
    “Flight of the Kiwi” is therefore a curious blog name to me?
    I have never met the former/present Kiwi living in UK now the goes by the “handle” “Flight of the Kiwi”.
    Despite that I understand elements of his article entitled: “China and its Spirit of Capitalism” and how different the Chinese mind set is. Long article well worth reading?
    Kind regards,

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