Jim Kennedy, my inside source for much of the Washington D.C. intrigue and Pentagon cover-up fictionalized in Rare Mettle, is the subject of a new non-fiction exposé. Sellout, by Victoria Bruce, details his years-long quest to bring to light America’s foolhardy reliance on China for the future of clean energy and the elements essential to high tech industries and national defense.
When Jim first agreed to cast his expert eye over my rough draft of Rare Mettle to vet the details of rare earth metals and their importance to Silicon Valley, neither of us expected future collaboration. Yet his descriptions of his meetings with high-level Defense appointees and members of the U.S. Congress, and the resistance he encountered to confront our growing dependence on China for our national security, galvanized me to rip apart Rare Mettle to incorporate what was really happening in the Beltway.
Here’s an excerpt from Rare Mettle that Jim helped me craft:
“Gonna take more than a civvy’s word to blow open the cover-up going on at the Pentagon, son.”
“Cover-up?” Paul pitched his voice lower. “What are you talking about, Colonel?”
“Warfare 101, Lieutenant.” DuMont took on the sonorous tones of a classroom lecturer. “Have you forgotten the basics of your military training? Modern warfare is based on logistics and procurement. How the fuck can we make sure we have the weapons we need if we rely on a foreign power to provide them to us?” His heavy sigh echoed in Paul’s ear. “At least that’s the argument I made to my CO. Then he handed me my walking papers and wished me a happy retirement.”
“Are you telling me they pushed you out because you brought to their attention a potential issue of national security?” Paul’s brain raced at the implications.
“I’m telling you that the fate of this nation hangs on whether our military can actually get its hands on critical high-tech gear when we need it, not when China decides to process metals for our defense contractors,” DuMont barked.
The cabbie revved his engine at a stoplight with matching urgency.
“But the rare earth mines that operate outside of China are our back-up!” Paul’s protest sounded lame even to his own ears.
DuMont snorted. “None of those operations have the metallurgical capabilities the defense industry needs. Only China does.”
“Figure it out, Lieutenant. Your goddamn intelligence services have reported on increases in non-Chinese rare earth production, sure. But they failed to point out that all those producers still send their raw materials to China to be upgraded and refined for our newest weaponry.”
“So any non-Chinese rare earths production is basically worthless to our defense and technology companies until China gets its hands on it…Whoa…”
“Son, what I’m about to tell you is confidential. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir.” Paul threw an ironic glance up at the Watergate Complex towering above, recalling its tainted history of Washington secrets and political ambitions. For a brief moment, he considered ending the call abruptly and avoiding the truth altogether.
No, DuMont deserved a full hearing after his years of dedicated service.
“Last month, I met with the Assistant Secretary of Defense, along with a top metallurgist and one of his own Asia policy experts,” DuMont said. “Do you know what that asshole said to my face?”
“I’m assuming you mean the Assistant Secretary,” Paul said with a wry twist of his lips.
“Actually, they all meet that description.” DuMont chuckled. “But yeah, the Assistant Secretary had the balls to look me in the eye and tell me that all our weapons still work without rare earths. That’s the official policy of the Pentagon.”
“In other words, ‘Shut the fuck up.’”
“Yep. While it’s true that some of our older weapon systems will work in a degraded form without rare earths, none of our laser-based systems will work at all. All those new, precision-guided weapons relying on surgical targeting won’t perform worth a damn. I should know. I spent half of my career searching out the technology to give America’s military a leading edge.”
Paul swallowed hard. “Sir, I hope you won’t take offense at this, but how the hell can you just retire knowing he flat out lied to you?”
“Oh, I still have a few friends in Congress who keep a close eye on the goings-on at the Executive Branch. They tracked down whether your agency’s documentation in the Congressional Armed Services Committee reports had ever seen the light of day.”
“Nope. Edited out. Plus, a staffer told me that asshole Assistant Secretary met with the ranking members of the committee just last week and reaffirmed the Pentagon’s official position on rare earths. So he lied to Congress, too.” DuMont tutted.
DuMont was right. Most of today’s military hardware increasingly relied on rare earth metals. And the Pentagon was engaged in a cover-up that included lying to Congress about their significance and its impact on national security.
The Pentagon, the most respected bureaucratic organization in the world, had lost control of its own procurement process—and to China, no less. Acknowledging that failure could embolden our enemies. The single most important building block of a successful military is logistics, starting with identifying and securing uninterruptable supply lines. No beans, no bullets—no army.
No one’s Beltway career could survive a failure of this magnitude. They had to cover it up.
Fortunately, my publisher blessed the changes and risked the controversy my novel would bring during the 2016 election cycle, including to Silicon Valley executives who ignore the negative consequences of global trade on national defense contractors. Since then, Jim and I have worked hard to raise public and consumer awareness of the importance of rare earth metals to maintaining America’s leadership position in technology and clean energy.
Silicon Valley novelist Ann Bridges writes untold stories that mainstream media won’t cover or doesn’t understand. Her debut novel, Private Offerings, was named 2015 Best Business Fiction by Wealth Management Magazine. Its sequel, Rare Mettle, was acclaimed by both military and industry professionals for its authenticity and cautionary warning. Visit her website to find out more.