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Rare earth elements in national defense : background, oversight issues, and options for Congress

Author: Valerie Bailey Grasso; Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service.
Publisher: [Washington, D.C.?] : Congressional Research Service, 2011.
Series: CRS report for Congress, R41744.
Edition/Format:   eBook : Document : National government publication : English
Summary:
Some Members of Congress have expressed concern over U.S. acquisition of rare earth elements that are used in various components of defense weapon systems. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the United States was the leader in global production of rare earths. Since that time, production of the world's supply of rare earths has shifted almost entirely to China, in part due to lower labor costs and lower environmental  Read more...
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Details

Material Type: Document, Government publication, National government publication, Internet resource
Document Type: Internet Resource, Computer File
All Authors / Contributors: Valerie Bailey Grasso; Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service.
OCLC Number: 712023791
Notes: Title from PDF title page (viewed on April 11, 2011).
"March 31, 2011."
Description: 1 online resource (22 pages) : color illustrations (digital, PDF file).
Contents: Introduction --
Background on rare earth elements. What are rare earth elements? --
How are rare earths used in defense applications? --
How and where are rare earths produced? --
Are rare earths critical materials for U.S. defense? --
Policy issues for Congress. Lack of domestic production capacity in rare earths --
Possible foreign supply chain disruptions --
Coordination of the federal approach to rare earths --
Absence of the study of rare earth application sciences in U.S. colleges and universities --
Options for Congress. Require DOD to immediately release the Rare Earths Report and conduct hearings on the report --
Convene defense suppliers to discuss supply chain issues --
Convene the Strategic Materials Protection Board --
Require stockpiling of specific materials --
Fund the downstream supply capacity --
Fund rare earth research --
Institute a new critical minerals program --
Develop partnerships with allies to diversify the supply source.
Series Title: CRS report for Congress, R41744.
Responsibility: Valerie Bailey Grasso.

Abstract:

Some Members of Congress have expressed concern over U.S. acquisition of rare earth elements that are used in various components of defense weapon systems. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the United States was the leader in global production of rare earths. Since that time, production of the world's supply of rare earths has shifted almost entirely to China, in part due to lower labor costs and lower environmental standards. A series of events and press reports over the last few months have highlighted the rare earth 'crisis, ' as some refer to it. Policymakers are concerned with the nearly total U.S. dependence on China for rare earth elements, including oxides, phosphors, metals, alloys, and magnets, and its implications for U.S. national security. The criticality and reliability of the rare earth element supply chain cuts across the manufacturing, defense, and science and technology sectors of the global economy. Some Members of Congress support development of a domestic source for rare earth elements. They view a reliable domestic supply chain as critical to maintaining existing and acquiring new defense weapons systems. Other policymakers see the existence of alternative sources for rare earth elements outside of China as a possible solution to mitigate a lack of domestic mining and manufacturing capability. Yet the 'crisis' for many policymakers is not that China has cut its rare earth exports and appears to be restricting the world's access to rare earths, but that the United States has lost its domestic capacity to produce strategic and critical materials. There are important questions with only partial answers at the present time.

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