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Developing a Comprehensive Approach Could Help DOD Better Manage National Security Risks in the Supply Chain

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Technical Report

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U.S. Government Accountability Office Washington United States

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Why GAO Did This Study. DOD depends on rare earths that contain one or more of 17 similar metals which have unique properties, such as magnetism at high temperatures, to provide functionality in weapon system components. Many steps in the rare earths supply chain, such as mining, are conducted in China, a situation that may pose risks to the continued availability of these materials. The Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the Carl Levin and Howard P. Buck McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for 2015 included a provision for GAO to review DOD efforts to identify and mitigate risks in its rare earths supply chain. This report assesses the extent that DOD 1 determined which rare earths, if any, are critical to national security and 2 has identified and mitigated risks associated with rare earths, including the effects of a potential supply disruption. GAO reviewed DOD reports from 2011-2015 and relevant legislation and collected information from DOD, the military departments, and industry organizations. What GAO Recommends.GAO recommends that DOD designate which rare earths are critical to national security, and develop a comprehensive approach to help ensure a secure supply by identifying risk metrics, among other activities. DOD concurred with all the recommendations in this report and provided timeframes for action.

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