Rare earth elements (REE) contain unique chemical and physical properties such as lanthanum, are found in small concentrations, need extensive precise processes to separate, and are critical components of modern technologies such as laser guidance systems, personal electronics such as IPhones, satellites, and military weapons systems as varied as Virginia-class fast attack submarines, DDG- 51 Aegis destroyers, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and precision guided munitions. The U.S. has some rare earth resources, but is heavily dependent on access to them from countries as varied as Afghanistan, Bolivia, and China. Losing access to these resources would have significant adverse economic, military, and political implications for the U.S. and its allies if their supply sources are restricted or eliminated. This article will examine the critical strategic importance of these resources, the historical origins and contemporary development of U.S. policy toward strategic minerals, and how multiple U.S. Government agencies are involved in this emerging policymaking arena. It features significant use of U.S. and foreign government statistics and analyses and scholarly journal literature. It will conclude by suggesting efforts to limit the severity of this problem to the U.S.’ economy and national security interests.


rare earth elements, strategic minerals, geopolitics, national security, supply chain security, national security policymaking

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