As many U.S. technologies rely on critical minerals, a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report is recommending Federal agencies update the national strategy for ensuring secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals to align with recent advancements.
Certain minerals are critical to U.S. economic prosperity and national security, but GAO said the United States is heavily reliant on imports.
Minerals such as rare earth elements, lithium, and cobalt, can be found in computers, household appliances, and smartphones. These minerals are also crucial to clean energy technologies, as they are found in batteries, electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels.
According to GAO, the Department of Commerce, in coordination with the Critical Minerals Subcommittee (CMS) – an interagency group co-chaired by the Departments of Energy (DoE), Interior, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) – issued a national strategy in 2019 to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.
However, GAO flagged that the strategy could use some updating, as it “does not incorporate certain characteristics of effective national strategies.”
Specifically, GAO said the strategy does not fully address “what the strategy intends to achieve, how results will be achieved, or performance measures to gauge results,” nor does it address the strategy’s cost or how Federal agencies will implement it.
“For example, the strategy does not identify how agencies will implement the activities necessary to complete the roadmap or how they will integrate these activities into existing programs,” GAO said. “Furthermore, the strategy does not address newly enacted statutory requirements or recent agency efforts, such as recommendations from a 2021 White House report that assessed risks to critical mineral supply chains.”
The report said updating the national strategy would “provide greater assurance of the strategy’s usefulness to congressional and agency decision makers,” as well as better ensure accountability for implementing the strategy.
GAO recommended that DoE, Interior and OSTP work together to update the national strategy to address recent developments and incorporate characteristics of effective national strategies.
DoE concurred with the recommendation, OSTP took no position, and Interior thought the recommendation should be directed to OSTP. GAO said it still believes the recommendation is warranted.