FY 2013 Defense Authorization Bill: Critical Materials

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Publication date: 
10 December 2012
Number: 
144

With  passage of the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act last week by the  Senate, the way is now clear for the House and Senate Defense Authorization  Committees to meet in a conference where differences between the two bills will  be resolved.  The calendar is working  against the conferees.  The new Congress  will meet on January 3; all bills not passed before that date will die and have  to be reintroduced.  Current thinking is  that a final defense bill will go to both the House and Senate for passage before  that date, maintaining an unbroken record of the annual enactment of this bill that  extends for more than a half-century.

Background:

A  year ago a subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held  a hearing on energy critical materials at which a report issued by the Panel on  Public Affairs of the American Physical Society, an AIP Member Society, and the  Materials Research Society, an AIP Affiliated Society, was discussed.  Also reviewed at this hearing was H.R. 2090,  the Energy Critical Elements Advancement Act of 2011.  This bill, introduced in 2011, was referred  to three House committees; no subsequent action was taken.  In 2011, the Senate Committee on Energy and  Natural Resources held a hearing on S. 1113, the Critical Minerals Policy Act,  but no further action was taken.

Senate  Action:

Senator  Jon Kyl (R-AZ) offered the following amendment on November 29 while the Senate was  considering the defense authorization act.   It was agreed to by the Senate by unanimous consent, an expedited floor procedure.

POLICY  OF THE UNITED STATES WITH RESPECT TO A DOMESTIC SUPPLY OF CRITICAL AND  ESSENTIAL MINERALS.

   “(a) Policy of the United States.--It is the  policy of the United States to promote the development of an adequate,  reliable, and stable supply of critical and essential minerals in the United  States in order to strengthen and sustain the military readiness, national  security, and critical infrastructure of the United States.

    “(b) Coordination of Development of Supply  of Critical and Essential Minerals.--To implement the policy described in  subsection (a), the President shall, acting through the Executive Office of the  President, coordinate the actions of the appropriate federal agencies to  identify opportunities for and to facilitate the development of resources in  the United States to meet the critical and essential mineral needs of the United  States.”

House  Action:

The  House Armed Services Committee included in the following language in its report  (page 286) accompanying its version of the defense authorization bill:

Recycling  of Rare Earth Elements

“The  committee is aware that in its December 2011 report entitled ‘Critical  Materials Strategy,’ the Department of Energy states that the heavy rare earth  phosphors, dysprosium, europium, terbium, and yttrium, are particularly  important given their relative scarcity combined with their importance to clean  energy, energy efficiency, hybrid and electric vehicles, and advanced defense  systems, among other key technologies. While new sources of production of rare  earth elements show promise, these are focused primarily on the light rare  earth elements. The committee notes that the recycling of end-use technologies  that use rare earth elements can provide a near-term opportunity to recapture,  reprocess, and reuse some of the rare earth elements contained in them.

“The  committee believes that fluorescent lighting materials could prove to be a  promising recyclable source of heavy rare earth elements, and the committee  believes the Department of Defense can increase supplies of heavy rare earth  elements by performing a cost-benefit analysis on the viability of recycling  its own fluorescent lighting waste for use in defense systems. While the  committee is concerned that rare earth materials are being lost due to  inadequate recycling efforts, the committee believes that the recycling of such  elements, as well as the maturation of new sources of production and a  developmental effort focused on alternatives to heavy     rare  earth elements, are necessary components of a prudent strategy to address  global demand for these elements.

“Therefore,  the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to the congressional  defense committees by March 1, 2013, with its recommendations on how the  Department of Defense can capture its fluorescent lighting waste and make the  material     available  to entities that have the ability to extract rare earth phosphors, reprocess  and separate them in an environmentally safe manner, and return these rare  earths into the domestic rare earth     supply  chain. The report should specifically address disposal and mitigation plans for  residual mercury and other hazardous byproducts to be produced by the recycling  process. The report should also specifically establish recommendations to  prevent the export of such heavy rare earth materials obtained from U.S.  Government sources to non-allied nations.”