Recently, President Trump announced an executive order aimed at strengthening both America’s manufacturing sector and the supply chains that keep it running. This is a much-needed effort at a time when the nation has lost more than 60,000 factories and 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000. South Carolina alone has lost a net 90,000 factory jobs in that time.
At the same time, the United States confronts troubling threats to national security, making an overall review of the nation’s industrial sector more complex than expected. Not only has Washington allowed key parts of America’s defense industry to be offshored over the past 15 years, but domestic manufacturers are now struggling to gain timely access to even basic materials needed for industrial and high-tech manufacturing. This has become particularly apparent when it comes to the metals and minerals needed for everything from steel to consumer electronics.
Such a predicament is not just worrying; it is entirely unnecessary. America possesses an estimated $6.2 trillion in minerals and metals reserves. Yet the United States was forced to import roughly $32 billion worth of processed minerals in 2015.