Natural Resources and Environment:

Actions Needed To Promote a Stable Supply of Strategic and Critical Minerals and Materials

EMD-82-69: Published: Jun 3, 1982. Publicly Released: Jun 3, 1982.

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The National Materials and Minerals Policy and Development Act of 1980 was enacted to provide a national policy for minerals and materials and to strengthen related research and production capabilities. The Executive Office of the President is implementing this policy primarily through the Cabinet Council on Natural Resources and the Environment. GAO reviewed the strides that have been made in developing legislative, budgetary, and programmatic proposals to promote an adequate and stable supply of minerals and materials needed to maintain national security, economic well-being, and industrial production as required by the Act.

The Act gives high priority to the issue of strategic and critical and minerals and materials. However, the President's program plan, while identifying measures to diminish U.S. minerals and materials vulnerability, does not adequately address the fundamental, rudimentary issues of: (1) what constitutes a strategic and critical mineral or material; (2) what the magnitude of potential U.S. vulnerability in a given nonfuel mineral and material market; and (3) what the proper Federal role. Unless these issues are resolved, a coherent plan to reduce U.S. mineral and materials vulnerability may be difficult to implement, and the limited Federal funds available may not be expended in the most cost-effective manner. The President's plan addresses general solutions for reducing increasing U.S. dependency on foreign sources for strategic and critical minerals and materials, including: (1) long-term, high-risk research and development with potential wide generic application to materials problems and increased productivity; (2) strategic and critical minerals impact analyses on proposed future congressional land withdrawals; and (3) congressional approval to dispose of excess materials in the National Defense Stockpile and to acquire stockpile materials. A growing consensus of opinion is that assuring U.S. access to future strategic and critical mineral and material supplies will require a long-term plan that is tailored for a specific mineral or material and that considers its extraction, processing, and consumption system.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Interior states that the greater precision envisioned by GAO is speculative and may even prove counterproductive. GAO disagrees and intends to schedule a subsequent review addressing the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the Cabinet Council on Natural Resources and the Environment should define the term "strategic" to relate to the probability of a supply disruption or sharp price increase in a given nonfuel mineral or material market and its expected duration and the term "critical" to relate to the adverse impact that would occur if supplies are disrupted or prices are sharply increased.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Cabinet Council on Natural Resources and the Environment

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Interior states that "existing estimation techniques simply do not permit reduction of all of the elements in the vulnerability problem to simple and reliable measures" and that "such reduction efforts probably face insurmountable difficulties." GAO disagrees and intends to schedule a subsequent review addressing the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the Cabinet Council on Natural Resources and the Environment should develop an approach to measure the magnitude of the potential problem by quantifying the degree of U.S. vulnerability in a given market.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Cabinet Council on Natural Resources and the Environment

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The action recommended is of a continuing, ongoing nature. The administration has stated that it agrees with this recommendation and has taken several steps to implement it.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the Cabinet Council on Natural Resources and the Environment should assure that legislative, budgetary, and programmatic proposals articulate how each short-term action: (1) will promote long-term, national nonfuel minerals and materials goals; and (2) relates to the long-term goals of other Federal policies.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Cabinet Council on Natural Resources and the Environment

 

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