US military sourcing strategies changing ever so slowly

Oct 01, 2010 | 08:06 AM | Tom Jennemann

The wheels of government turn slowly. And while momentum is gaining for a move away from the traditional stockpiling of raw materials, changing the way the U.S. Defense Department procures metal isn't something that will happen overnight.

Beryllium serves as a perfect example. By all accounts, beryllium producer Brush Wellman Inc.'s quest to commission its $90.4-million Pebbles beryllium plant in Elmore, Ohio, has proceeded smoothly. Nevertheless, the process has taken nearly a decade since its inception.

Beryllium—used in critical system components for weapons, missile defense systems and infrared radar for fighter aircraft and attack helicopters—typically has been purchased by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and stored in government-owned warehouses.

In 2000, Brush Engineered Materials Inc., Cleveland, the only domestic producer of high-purity beryllium, stopped production at its Utah plant, largely due to equipment obsolescence. Since then, the Defense Department has relied on a dwindling supply of beryllium ingot from the national defense stockpile, which is on pace to be depleted by 2011. Currently, the DLA has only about 50 short tons of the material in stock.....

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