- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2022

A bipartisan group of senators is calling on the Pentagon to shore up its stockpile of critical minerals needed to manufacture modern military technologies for which they say the U.S. has become increasingly reliant on China as a source.

Sens. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, and Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, who both sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee, say their legislation would shore up the U.S. strategic stockpile of key materials needed to meet modern-day defense needs and ensure stable access to critical minerals for America and its allies worldwide.

“At this very moment, our enemies like China dominate the supply chain of these increasingly vital materials, and are even expanding into regions such as Africa and Afghanistan, threatening our readiness in an emergency situation and jeopardizing our national security,” Ms. Ernst said.

The Pentagon maintains a stockpile of critical materials used by defense and civilian manufacturers to be used for national emergencies, known as the National Defense Stockpile.

But according to a 2019 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is fully import-reliant on 14 minerals on the Pentagon’s list and 75% reliant on imports for another 10 critical minerals on the list.

Their bill would require the Defense Department to look for ways to ensure stable access to the materials, and give it authority to update its list of critical minerals to meet modern needs.

Sens. Steve Daines, Montana Republican; Gary Peters, Michigan Democrat; Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican; Rick Scott, Florida Republican; and Angus King, Maine independent, co-signed the bill which was introduced Tuesday.

“By addressing the weaknesses in our current National Defense Stockpile, our bill will bolster American critical mineral independence and help ensure we have the resources we need for essential defense products and services,” Mr. Manchin said. “I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this crucial legislation.”

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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