scorecardGoing to war? Good news! The United States is 13 years behind in ammunition production, NYT reports
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Going to war? Good news! The United States is 13 years behind in ammunition production, NYT reports

Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert   

Going to war? Good news! The United States is 13 years behind in ammunition production, NYT reports
LifeInternational3 min read
  • The Biden administration this month proposed a record-breaking $842 billion budget for the DOD.
  • Missile and munition stockpiles are dwindling as the US continues to send aid packages to Ukraine.

The United States' commitment to support Ukraine against the Russian invasion appears to have rattled the stability of the domestic stockpile of missiles and munitions.

The Biden administration has promised — as part of $33 billion sent in military aid for the besieged country so far — a US Patriot air-defense system will be sent to Ukraine, along with over 200,000 rounds of artillery, rockets, and tank rounds.

In fulfilling those promises, The New York Times reported the US has sent Ukraine so many stockpiled Stinger missiles that it would take 13 years of production at recent capacity levels to replace them. The Times added that Raytheon, the company that helps make Javeline missile systems, said it would take five years at last year's production rates to replace the number of missiles sent to Ukraine in the last ten months.

Currently, the US produces just over 14,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition every month — and Ukrainian forces have previously fired that many rounds in the span of 48 hours, The Washington Post reported last month. US officials in January proposed a production increase up to 90,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition each month to keep up with demand.

"Ammunition availability might be the single most important factor that determines the course of the war in 2023," US defense experts Michael Kofman and Rob Lee wrote in December for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, adding that Ukraine will depend on international stockpiles and production for access to the ammunition it needs.

The United States has rarely seen production shortages in ammunition and missiles to the degree the country currently faces. While there was a brief precision missile shortage in 2016 following fights in Libya and Iraq, The Times reported, the US has largely been engaged in short-term, high-intensity fights such as the Persian Gulf War, or prolonged, lower-intensity missions like the war in Afghanistan, which allowed for the stockpile to be rebuilt as needed.

Now, as tensions rise among global superpowers, production and munition limitations in the US — caused by supply chain shortages, as well as Cold War-era reductions in capacity, The Times reported — have become of grave concern among defense professionals.

"This could become a crisis. With the front line now mostly stationary, artillery has become the most important combat arm," according to a report by The Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Ukraine will never run out of 155 mm ammunition―there will always be some flowing in―but artillery units might have to ration shells and fire at only the highest priority targets. This would have an adverse battlefield effect. The more constrained the ammunition supply, the more severe the effect."

Earlier this month, the Biden administration proposed a record-breaking $842 billion budget for the Department of Defense. In an effort to address the munitions shortage, the proposed budget includes $19.2 billion for modernizing facilities "that support readiness improvements," as well as increasing production of naval and anti-strike missiles, in an aim to support the country and its allies through this "decisive decade."

While improvements to production facilities have been budgeted for going forward, the US is currently pushing suppliers to capacity to meet current wartime demands in Ukraine and keep pace with China's production.

"When it comes to munitions, make no mistake," Kathleen Hicks, the deputy defense secretary, said during a briefing earlier this month on the 2024 budget proposal: "We are buying to the limits of the industrial base even as we are expanding those limits, and we're continuing to cut through red tape and accelerate timelines."

Representatives for the Department of Defense did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.