Pentagon has strategic germanium stockpile but no gallium reserves

Pentagon has strategic germanium stockpile but no gallium reserves

The Pentagon currently has a strategic U.S. stockpile for germanium, but it does not have any inventory reserves for gallium. This comes after China announced export restrictions on these two metals, which are used in semiconductors. However, the Defense Department is taking proactive steps to increase domestic mining and processing of critical materials, including gallium and germanium, for the microelectronics and space supply chain.

Germanium is utilized in high-speed computer chips, plastics, military applications such as night-vision devices, and satellite imagery sensors. On the other hand, gallium is used in radar and radio communication devices, satellites, and LEDs. China’s sudden announcement of export controls on gallium and germanium products has caused companies to scramble for supplies and has led to price increases. These metals are also used in electric vehicles (EVs) and fiber optic cables.

While major defense contractors like Lockheed Martin Corp may not directly purchase gallium and germanium, they often buy semiconductors from suppliers who source these metals from China. This situation could potentially slow down the production of Department of Defense (DoD) systems or increase costs. Arun Seraphin, the executive director for the National Defense Industrial Association’s Emerging Technologies Institute, highlighted the impact of these restrictions on the supply chain.

However, Dak Hardwick, the vice president of international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association, believes that the export restrictions will have little short-term impact on defense companies. These companies typically purchase materials for critical systems well in advance. L3Harris has made adjustments within its supply chain to avoid disruptions, but did not provide specific comments on the impact of the new restrictions.

China’s latest move has escalated the trade war with the U.S. and could potentially disrupt global supply chains even further. Hardwick suggests that the Pentagon will eventually need to find alternative sources for gallium and germanium, such as direct mining, manufacturing, refining, or recycling programs. He also believes that these restrictions could prompt U.S. lawmakers to increase investments in critical minerals.

During a virtual address to leaders attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, China President Xi Jinping called on nations to reject decoupling and avoid severing supply chains. This highlights the potential implications of these export restrictions on global trade.

In conclusion, the Pentagon lacks inventory reserves for gallium but has a strategic stockpile for germanium. China’s export restrictions on these metals have caused concerns and disruptions in supply chains. The Defense Department is taking proactive measures to increase domestic mining and processing of critical materials. The impact on defense companies may be limited in the short term, but alternative sources for gallium and germanium will need to be found. This situation has intensified the trade war between China and the U.S. and may lead to increased investments in critical minerals.

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