WASHINGTON — The United States Magnetic Materials Association (“USMMA”), a trade association dedicated to restoring a competitive, secure, end-to-end rare earth supply chain to support the domestic manufacturing of rare earth permanent magnets, welcomes the inclusion of important and timely rare earth-related language in the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 1540) that was passed by the House Armed Services Committee last night. The USMMA lauds the leadership of Representative Mike Coffman (CO-6), whose amendment recognizes current supply-chain vulnerabilities, focuses the Department of Defense on establishing an inventory of required materials, and encourages domestic manufacturing in this critical area.
In particular, this provision would require the Defense Logistics Agency Strategic Materials (formerly the Defense National Stockpile Center) to develop a plan to establish an inventory of rare earth oxides, metals, alloys, and magnets for defense purposes. By also identifying “the steps necessary to develop or maintain a competitive, multi-source supply chain to avoid reliance on a single source of supply”, the plan would mitigate our nation’s current overdependence on unreliable foreign sources for critical rare earth materials. It would also encourage U.S. manufacturing capabilities and thus reinvigorate a competitive, multi-source domestic rare earth industry.
Key defense applications, ranging from precision-guided munitions to satellite wave tubes to certain lasers, depend on rare earth materials for functionality. So do increasingly popular green technologies and electronic goods like hybrid cars, wind turbines, and mobile phones. As growing global demand begins to outstrip supply of key elements, this plan will help to ensure that oxides, alloys, metals, and magnets are available for critical defense requirements. Representative Coffman’s provision is a significant step forward in safeguarding U.S. national security, and USMMA commends him for his foresight.