May 12, 2011

CNAS Releases Report on Critical Minerals and Rare Earths

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) released today Elements of Security: Mitigating the Risks of U.S. Dependence on Critical Minerals, a report on the geostrategic and economic importance of critical minerals such as rare earths by CNAS Fellow and director of the Natural Security program Christine Parthemore.

In Elements of Security and a recent op-ed, Parthemore explains the role rare earth elements and other minerals play in key defense technologies and civil society and what short- or long-term supply disruptions would mean for U.S. national security. Rare earth elements are integral to many components of defense-related capabilities, from stealth technologies, to temperature-resistant magnets for aerospace components like those used in Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), to radar and night vision goggles. Moreover, they are commonly used in cars and smart phones.

In the report, Parthemore recommends that in order to manage supply disruptions and ensure that America's most important defense needs and energy goals can be met, the U.S. government must alter its policy to ensure access to correct information about mineral markets and better assess which minerals are required for strategic needs. It must also use existing mechanisms, such as stockpiling and research and development funding, to help mitigate risks. Parthemore also recommends that the Department of Defense include minerals-related challenges in relevant war games involving regions such as the South China Sea and Latin America to better understand its unique supply needs and the ways in which these resources may affect national security and foreign policy interests. 

Download Elements of Security here.

Check out the Natural Security Blog.

Follow Christine Parthemore on Twitter @clparthemore.


The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is an independent and nonpartisan research institution that develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies. CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and tomorrow.