Sullivan Will Hold Three Pentagon Nominees Over Biden’s Choking Off Domestic Critical Mineral Supplies

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), yesterday announced he intends to hold three senior Biden administration Defense Department nominees in response to the administration’s decision in February to stall the Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Road project in Alaska. The nominees will be in charge of the nation’s defense industrial base, including the domestic supply chain of critical minerals, resources that are essential to many defense technologies.

The Ambler Mining District is one of the most prolific untapped deposits of critical minerals. The United States is currently 100 percent reliant on other countries for 14 critical minerals and more than 75 percent reliant for an additional ten critical minerals. Sullivan argued that, while he believes the nominees are well qualified, the Interior Department’s reckless action to block the Ambler project and limit the supply of critical minerals, at a time of heightened tension with China, puts the nation’s security at risk and warrants answers from the Biden administration.

“The Ambler Mining District is considered one of the most extensive sources of undeveloped zinc, copper, lead, gold, and silver anywhere in the world. But we have no transportation to it. On the same day President Biden hosted a summit on America’s critical mineral supply chains, his Interior Department shut down the Record a Decision for the road to Ambler,” said Sen. Sullivan. “This decision was a huge set-back for our domestic critical mineral supply chains, really undermining our national security. I haven’t been able to get answers from anybody in the Pentagon or at the Department of the Interior. Therefore, while I believe these nominees are well qualified, I’m putting a hold on their nominations until I get answers.” 

The three nominees are Dr. Radha Plumb, nominated to be deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, Dr. Laura Taylor-Kale, nominated to be assistant secretary of defense for industrial base policy, and Brendan Owens, nominated to be assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations, and environment. 

The Ambler Road project began permitting during the Obama administration and received final federal approval in July of 2020 following a seven-year environmental impact statement (EIS) process, 36,000 public comments, 30 public hearings, and 30 consultations with tribal groups. On February 2, 2022, the Biden administration Department of the Interior filed in federal court to reopen the Record of Decision for the project, adding months of delays for supplemental environmental analysis.

The Ambler Road would provide the access needed to responsibly develop a number of high-grade mineral deposits—including copper, cobalt, zinc, silver, gold, and other metals—in northwest Alaska. A right-of-way across federal land is guaranteed by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).

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