In support of the Defense Department's focus on increasing domestic production of critical materials, Deborah Rosenblum, performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for industrial base policy and current assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, visited key production sites and defense laboratories during a recent west coast trip.
National security and essential civilian markets require stable access to refined rare earth elements, which are used in a variety of defense applications as well as electric vehicles, wind turbines, and other modern technologies, including clean energy.
While visiting the Mountain Pass Mine in San Bernardino County, California, Rosenblum participated in an explosives detonation — the first step in the extraction process of rare earth elements. The DOD recently awarded a $35 million contract to MP Materials of Las Vegas, owner of the Mountain Pass Mine, to build U.S. heavy, rare earth element separation capacity.
"Major investments in domestic production of key critical minerals and materials ensures these resources benefit the community and create good-paying jobs," said Rosenblum. The budget request sent to Congress on March 28th increases investments in key technologies and sectors of the U.S. industrial base, including critical materials, microelectronics and castings and forgings.
In addition to enabling key opportunities for collaboration between government and industry stakeholders responsible for addressing some of the Nation's most pressing supply chain challenges, the visit also demonstrated a shared commitment to increasing diversity throughout the defense industrial base, and to on-shoring production of critical materials.
In coordination with the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Materiel Readiness, Rosenblum also visited the Defense Microelectronics Activity in McClellan, California, which serves as a trusted technical source for microelectronics solutions within the Department; and NextFlex, one of nine manufacturing innovation institutes.
NextFlex's mission is to advance U.S. manufacturing of flexible hybrid electronics. At the NextFlex Test and Characterization Lab, leaders viewed an industrial scale, six-axis robot used for printing circuits on non-planar surfaces and multiple other functions. Ongoing initiatives associated with DMEA and NextFlex are established testaments to the DOD’s vision to build resiliency in defense supply chains.
Each stop on the visit offered evidence on how the DOD is advancing shared strategic goals through technology and talent across the U.S. industrial bases, highlighting the importance these bases play in both the defense and civilian sectors.
"The work being done at each of these facilities is not only impressive but a great example of how we are partnering to drive innovation," said Rosenblum. "Efforts here are essential to our success in delivering both preeminent capabilities to the warfighter and delivering a 21st-century defense industrial base; and none of it could be accomplished without a dedicated and talented workforce. I've truly been impressed."