The first activity to develop an inventory of strategic and critical materials for military use was authorized in the Naval Appropriations Act of 1938, which also provided funds to buy strategic items. But today’s NDS had its beginning with the passage of the 1939 Strategic Materials Act, which authorized $100 million for the Secretaries of War and the Navy acting jointly with the Secretary of the Interior and in conjunction with the Army and Navy Munitions Board to purchase strategic raw materials for a stockpile. The Army and Navy Munitions Board had developed a list of 42 strategic and critical materials needed for wartime production. The list was based on the threatened loss of vital imports as a consequence of Japanese conquests in Asia and the possibility of war in Europe (Snyder, 1966). By May 1940, small quantities of certain materials—such as chromite, manganese, rubber, and tin—were procured under the Strategic Materials Act. By October 1940, both the Army and Navy Munitions Board and the National Defense Advisory Commission, a Presidential advisory group, had recommended specific quantities of strategic minerals for stockpiling, many of which were the same as on the earlier list. Unfortunately, the acquisition of these materials was not completed before the beginning of the war, because only $70 million of the $100 million had been appropriated by Congress and only $54 million worth of materials had been acquired.1
Throughout World War II, the United States relied mainly on its strong industrial base for processing and manufacturing to meet national defense needs. All segments of the industry were fully mobilized in a short time to manufacture the goods and products needed to win the war. To support this effort, numerous materials were imported in large quantities—such as ferroalloys, manganese, tin, and natural rubber. Several federal agencies—including the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the War Production Board, which was formed in January 1942—were responsible for importing these materials, as well as arranging for the building up of government-owned reserves or stockpiles of strategic and critical materials. Major expansions of the domestic supply of materials were financed by the federal government, most notably the supply of aluminum and synthetic rubber. Of the 15 materials in the stockpile during World War II, only 3 were from domestic sources, while the rest were from foreign sources (War Department and Navy Department, 1947). Between 1942 and 1944, 6 materials in the national stockpile inventory were released for military needs, and a seventh material under contract but not yet in the stockpile was redirected, all by Executive Order of the President (War Department and Navy Department, 1947).