Defense Department Inks Strategic Deal To Boost High Purity Aluminum Production
Why aluminum production matters for security
Photo above by Pixabay shows industrial welding. Smelting metals is the process of turning ore into usable metal for industry.
In a strategic move to bolster domestic production capabilities and safeguard national security, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded a contract aimed at increasing the production capacity of High Purity Aluminum (HPA), a critical resource in the aerospace and munitions sectors.
In a world where geopolitical tensions and power shifts put increasing pressure on global supply chains, this move is a broader effort by Washington to secure its own industrial base and develop the capacity to rapidly increase the materials production, munitions, or equipment as needed.
Events such as Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and China's ambition to shape a multi-polar world and lessen U.S. influence in key regions have made this effort crucial.
The Office for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy (OASD (IBP)) has entered into a $45.5 million agreement with Arconic Corporation to boost the production of missiles and munitions, specifically the production of HPA at its facility in Davenport, Iowa, the Potomac Officers Club announced on June 19.
This step follows an announcement made by the White House in February that proclaimed an adjustment to aluminum imports:
“The Secretary has informed me that the capacity utilization in the domestic aluminum industry remains well below the target capacity utilization level recommended in the January 2018 report,” President Joe Biden announced in the February press release, explaining the context of year’s long processes the U.S. has taken to counteract the decreased production of HPA in the U.S., which has been attributed to the low-cost production of HPA by foreign smelters.
"The Office of Industrial Base Policy continues to support industrial sectors of strategic importance to protect American national security and deter adversarial aggression," said Dr. Laura Taylor-Kale, ASD(IBP), as she was quoted by the U.S. Defense Department.
The company awarded the funding is involved in a manufacturing sector President Biden identified as critical for protecting domestic supply chains.
To fund the initiative, the DoD is utilizing Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III authorities and funds appropriated by the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act. This move will provide the U.S. with a "much-needed" surge capacity for HPA production and help "mitigate risks to national security" in the event of industrial mobilization.
Allocated funds will go to enhancing infrastructure at the facility and making modifications to accommodate the increased capacity and new equipment. Among the improvements are the design and installation of a new furnace and the implementation of new control and automation systems.
High Purity Aluminum is a critical material for many military and commercial systems, including aerospace platforms and tactical ground vehicles. The U.S. is not just looking inward; it is also providing Ukraine with hundreds of thousands of rounds of artillery ammunition and ground-based air defense missiles to aid Kyiv in its operations against Russia, highlighting the interconnectedness of these global security concerns and resource chains.
With this move, the DoD demonstrates its commitment to securing domestic supply chains and responding to the geopolitical realities of the modern world. The decision to increase domestic HPA production capacity signals a strategic pivot towards enhancing self-reliance, reducing dependency on foreign entities for critical resources, and preserving national security interests.
This move has implications that extend beyond U.S. borders. Enhanced production efforts echo in the corridors of global power politics and shape the trajectory of international security dynamics.