Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has urged administration officials to support the development of a fully domestic rare earths supply chain and to reduce U.S. dependence on China for minerals essential for defense technologies manufacturing.
“It is clear that our dependence on China for vital rare earths threatens our U.S. manufacturing and defense industrial base," the senators wrote on April 24.
Since the United States has no refining capacity of its own, current rare earth concentrates extracted in California are being sent to China for processing, they wrote.
The lawmakers referenced an October 2018 Defense Industrial Base (DIB) report that stated that China is a "significant and growing risk" to the supply of materials critical to U.S. national security and that ensuring a domestic source of rare earths would reduce the risk to U.S. military readiness.
The senators noted that the United States is "100% import-dependent for rare earths as well as 13 other metals and minerals." These minerals are listed on the U.S. Government Critical Minerals List.
In the letters, which were both similar in language, the senators warned the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense to "take care that no link in the chain passes through a country that presents risk of supply disruption."
"Priority consideration should be given to projects that extract and process rare earths from U.S. sources and at U.S. facilities," they wrote.
"Ensuring a U.S. supply of domestically sourced rare earths will reduce our vulnerability to supply disruptions that pose a grave risk to our military readiness," the senators continued. "Should the U.S. develop a more robust domestic rare earths supply chain, it is important that the federal government does not pick winners and losers within the industry."
Cruz was joined in the letters by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.).