On March 4, 2019, the Department of Commerce announced that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross accepted the Section 232 petition filed on September 27, 2018, by domestic producer Titanium Metals Corporation (TIMET) and launched an investigation into whether the quantity or circumstances of titanium sponge imports into the United States threaten to impair the national security. Secretary Ross sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan informing him that he has initiated an investigation in response to this petition. The Department of Defense supports the initiation of this 232 investigation on titanium sponge.

Titanium sponge is the primary form of titanium metal from which almost all other titanium products are made. Titanium is used in the production of strategic articles such as military aircraft, space vehicles, satellites, naval vessels, missiles, and munitions. It is also widely used in critical infrastructure and commercial applications such as civilian aircraft, chemical plants, oil and gas plants, electric power and desalination plants, building structures, automobile products, and bio-medical devices.

Imports account for more than 60 percent of U.S. titanium sponge consumption. Currently only one facility in the United States has the capacity to process titanium ore into the sponge used in manufacturing. Titanium sponge is difficult to stockpile for long periods as it degrades, rendering the sponge unsuitable for the most demanding military and aerospace applications.

On March 8, 2019, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published in the Federal Register a notice requesting the submission by interested parties of  comments, data, analyses, or other information pertinent to the investigation by April 22, 2019. Rebuttal comments will be due by May 22, 2019. Commerce is particularly interested in comments and information directed to the criteria listed in 15 C.F.R. § 705.4 of the National Security Industrial Base Regulations (NSIBR) as they affect national security including the eight issues identified in the notice. Rebuttal comments may only address issues raised in comments filed on or before April 22, 2019.