November 24, 1981
I am today directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to procure approximately 1.6 million tons of Jamaican-type, metal grade bauxite for the National Defense Stockpile during the current fiscal year.
Our nation's potential vulnerability to raw material supply disruptions during a period of emergency mobilization is well known. In answer to this, last March we began the first major purchase program for the Defense Stockpile in over 20 years with the expectation of implementing a long-term, fiscally responsible program to redress stockpile deficiencies.
This bauxite acquisition program represents another necessary step. Bauxite is a raw material used to produce aluminum, a major element in almost all modern military weapons systems such as the B-1 bomber and F-18 aircraft. It is a critical input to industries that are essential to support a mobilization effort. During World War II a substantial portion of our bauxite ore-carrying ships was sunk in the South Atlantic by enemy submarines, thus pointing up the need for wartime resources of bauxite within our nation's boundaries. Currently the stockpile is critically deficient in Jamaican-type bauxite, with an inventory 12 million tons below requirements.
This large and cost-effective acquisition program will be accomplished through a combination of direct cash purchase and exchange with excess materials from our stockpile by General Services Administration, and barter, using agricultural commodities with the Department of Agriculture. Agricultural barter to require needed raw materials will thus be used for the first time in almost 15 years. This barter arrangement follows from the congressional mandate contained in section 6 of the Stockpiling Act of 1979.
While improving our own defense posture, this program will contribute to Prime Minister Seaga's strategy for Jamaica to rely to the maximum extent possible on production and exports to fuel its economic recovery. The stability and economic strength of Jamaica are important to our national security interests in the Caribbean.