May 11, 2011

Rare Earths Piece at Danger Room

Today, the kind scribes at Danger Room allowed me to post a piece on rare earths in advance of tomorrow's official release of my new minerals report. Check out "Rare Earths Woes Could Mean Trouble for U.S. Stealth Fleet," and here are a few lines for a preview:

"Ever since Osama bin Laden’s demise, aviation sleuths have been trying to figure out what was the mystery copter that delivered SEAL Team Six. I’ve been pondering a much geekier question: what was in the mystery copter?


...rare earths supplies to the United States happen to exhibit a perfect
storm of vulnerabilities: rising global demand; a dearth of producers;
out-dated stockpiling policies; an inability to ability to substitute
more readily-available minerals; skyrocketing prices.
Perhaps worse, there is a looming problem that the Defense Department
doesn’t always understand its supply chains down to the raw material
level now that the defense industrial base is thoroughly globalized and
dual-use with civilian applications."

Obviously, very few people on Earth know for sure if the mysterious helicopter used in the bin Laden complex raid required rare earths to produce, but as I say in the piece, I'd bet money on it. The stealth copter got me thinking last week about the tensions between Congress and DOD recently on minerals - and the still-prevelant attitude that DOD doesn't use enough rare earths in quantity for it to matter. But the stealth copter is a good reminder of why DOD needs to care: defense tech needs change, sometimes rapidly. We should be proactive about ensuring that whatever new tech DOD needs to develop, the raw materials are available and not subject to easy cut-off or suppliers leveraging their commodities for political gain.

More on minerals tomorrow, and for today, enjoy the Danger Room piece!