President Joe Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to “meet the requirements of the clean energy economy,” following recent reports that he would use the measure to help refill dwindling US missile stocks. The DPA is a Korean War-era law that grants the president sweeping powers over private companies.
Issued Thursday, a White House memorandum on the order says the administration is seeking to boost the “production of large-capacity batteries” and end US dependence on “unreliable foreign sources” for goods such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese.
“To promote the national defense, the United States must secure a reliable and sustainable supply of such strategic and critical materials,” the release said, claiming the move is also “essential” for the “development and preservation of domestic critical infrastructure.”
Though the Pentagon recently stated the president was considering whether to invoke the DPA to make up for a shortage of Javelin and Stinger missiles following a flurry of weapons shipments to Ukraine, the White House made no mention of arms in its memo. Instead, it cited the need for large batteries in the “automotive, e-mobility, and stationary storage sectors,” also calling for a “clean energy transition” in the United States.
Speaking with the Hill ahead of Biden’s announcement, an unnamed source familiar with the plan said the move could give mining companies access to a fund worth $750 million. However, they added that the DPA would not be used for “loans or direct purchases,” but rather to finance “feasibility studies” and “productivity/safety modernizations,” among other things.
In mid-March, a bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to the White House urging the president to use his expansive authorities under the DPA to “accelerate domestic production” of materials used in batteries, specifically lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese. They also warned that the US “relies almost exclusively on foreign nations” for those resources, sounding alarms over China’s role in the global supply chain. Though the White House did not cite Beijing by name on Thursday, its memorandum raises similar concerns about “foreign sources.”
The DPA was first passed in 1950 to speed up titanium and aluminum production during the war in Korea, establishing a large bureaucracy under the Office of Defense Mobilization. The law was used to push through price and wage controls under President Harry Truman, and gives the commander in chief immense powers to direct private firms to do the government’s bidding. President Donald Trump invoked the act more than 30 times to boost certain supplies amid the Covid-19 pandemic, while Biden used it soon after taking office for the same purpose.