Home Essential support Securing critical minerals essential to US national security – The Hamburg Reporter

Securing critical minerals essential to US national security – The Hamburg Reporter


Senate Updates with Joni Ernst

Over the past year, we have seen the world become a more dangerous place. From Afghanistan to Ukraine, America’s enemies are on the march. Today our country faces threats from emboldened adversaries around the world such as Russia, Iran, China and violent extremist organizations in Africa and Afghanistan.

As our nation faces these emerging and magnified threats, the need to sustain and modernize our defenses is ever-increasing. A vital part of this, which is becoming more essential every day, is the use of what are known as critical minerals.

Critical minerals include elements such as rare earth minerals, cobalt, and lithium, all of which are used to produce engines, night vision equipment, and other modern military technology. The defense of America in the modern age increasingly demands the use of these materials. For example, the Air Force’s first combat aircraft, the F-22, is made of layers of titanium alloy, much of which comes from Russia and China. It is therefore increasingly important for our nation to have an adequate supply and reliable access to these essential minerals.

But, right now, our adversaries like Communist China dominate the supply chain of these increasingly vital materials, threatening our emergency preparedness and jeopardizing our national security. China is on the move in areas that we have shamefully abandoned in particular. In Afghanistan, for example, the Taliban are negotiating with the Chinese Communist Party over mining. They have already confirmed 60 contracts, giving our adversaries access to a mineral bed valued at nearly $3 trillion.

We must bolster America’s supply of critical minerals, end our nation’s dependence on China, and protect America’s national security interests. That’s why I’m joining my friend and fellow Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, to do just that. This week we introduced our HARD ROCK Act, or Homeland Acceleration of Recovering Deposits and Renewing Onshore Critical Keystones Act.

This bipartisan bill refocuses the nation’s stockpile to ensure we secure the strategic and critical materials we need to meet our national security requirements for the modern age. The Department of Defense is required to maintain a stockpile of critical and strategic materials, known as the National Defense Stock (NDS), which in times of war or national emergency is used to supply defense and civilian manufacturers essential immediate access to raw materials. necessary to produce these goods.

The reality is that right now, when it comes to certain strategic and critical minerals, the United States is simply insufficiently positioned to meet critical military and civilian needs. According to a 2019 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, the United States was 100% dependent on imports of 14 minerals on the critical minerals list and more than 75% on imports of 10 other critical minerals. Our bipartisan bill gives the head of NDS the power to update a list of strategic and critical minerals to acquire that reflects America’s modern defense needs.

Our bill also pushes the Pentagon to work with our partners and allies around the world to ensure stable access to these minerals. This compels the Department of Defense to review potential updates to statutory authority for broad collaboration with our partners and allies to ensure reliable access to critical and strategic materials from our friends around the world.

I was extremely pleased that this week, after Senator Manchin and I introduced our new bill, key elements of our HARD ROCK Act were included in the annual Senate Defense Bill, which called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2023, which was made public on Thursday. As members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who worked on the NDAA, we fought to have key parts of our legislation included. We are delighted that the Committee has agreed with us to make it clear that ensuring reliable access to critical minerals should and will be a priority in this year’s Defense Bill.

It is high time we took seriously the risk we face in allowing China to manage our national defense and critical mineral supply chain. For decades, China has worked to build a global monopoly on the essential minerals our nation needs to defend itself and create the future. America cannot fail to make significant investments to secure this supply chain and these strategic minerals. We must ensure that America has the essential materials we need to meet our defense needs in an increasingly dangerous world.

Joni Ernst, a Red Oak native and veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.