the national interest would be better served by adopting a different sell-down schedule and retaining a portion of the remaining helium as a strategic reserve, making this reserve available to critical users in times of sustained shortages or pursuant to other predetermined priority needs.
The committee notes that securing a stable and accessible helium supply in the future requires addressing several important issues that are beyond the scope of this study. For example, the legislative framework for the operation of the federal helium program is silent on the management of the Federal Helium Reserve after January 1, 2015, the mandated date for disposal of substantially all federally owned crude helium. What is to be done with the remaining federally owned crude helium? How will BLM operations beyond 2015 be financed? Should the Reserve, either as a federal or a private entity, as appropriate, continue to exist after the BLM debt to the U.S. Treasury has been retired? While the committee supports maintaining a strategic reserve, addressing these issues requires the involvement of Congress and the broader federal science policy establishment because the issues go well beyond the reserve management responsibilities of BLM.