Reuters reported exclusively in a July 12 story, "the Pentagon is quietly racing to track the U.S. output of rare earth minerals amid the ongoing trade dispute with China."

And Western Michigan University is touting that it's already begun doing such tracking.

"In May, the University began working on a grant its state geological survey received to assess Michigan's potential for supplying some of the 35 minerals the federal government considers vital to the nation's security and economic prosperity." - WMU release

The items on the list are essential for producing everything from computer components and chips, to cellular phones, to robots, electric cars and missile systems; and more mundane products such as  washing machines, energy-efficient light bulbs.

An escalating trade war with China has resulted not only in increased tariffs but also the  threat of supplies drying up completely. A lesson can be learned from when China and Japan engaged in a trade war a decade ago.

"These kinds of materials are so important to our technology and our everyday activities that we just can't afford not to have them. So the president issued an executive order,"says WMU Professor William Harrison, who is the principal investigator for a U.S. Geological Survey grant.