Mackubin Thomas Owens is a senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.
On Sept. 30, President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring a national emergency in the mining industry with the goal of incentivizing “the domestic production of rare earth minerals [also called rare earth elements (REEs)] critical for military technologies while reducing American dependence on China.”
The EO states that the country’s heavy reliance on critical minerals from foreign adversaries constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.
Trump ordered the appropriate departments to study the matter, examining the feasibility of government grants for production equipment, as well as tariffs, quotas or other import restrictions against China and other foreign adversaries.
REE refers to 17 minerals critical to the manufacturing of missiles and munitions, hypersonic weapons, and radiation-hardened electronics, as well as such consumer goods as cellphones and catalytic converters in automobiles.
To cite just two examples, every F-35 fighter requires 920 pounds of REE and each Virginia-class submarine needs 10 times that amount.