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Does the US Military Have Enough Minerals for a Possible Conflict with China?: Estimating Shortfalls for Military Materials

By Gregory Wischer and Morgan Bazilian

Abstract: The National Defense Stockpile is a tool to both reduce America’s reliance on foreign materials, especially materials from China, and to prepare for a possible conflict. However, the Department of Defense does not publicly release its biennial stockpile assessment, which analyzes what materials may be in shortfall during a conflict. And even if publicly released, the biennial stockpile assessment—if the publicly available 2015 assessment is indicative—does not specifically delineate the military’s projected shortfall quantities for individual materials. This paper provides a simple methodology to estimate the US military’s shortfall risks for twenty-three materials in three different conflict scenarios with China. It finds that the following nine materials have the highest shortfall risk: antimony, bismuth, cobalt, niobium (columbium), metallurgical-grade fluorspar, acid-grade fluorspar, iridium, nickel, and titanium sponge.

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