Earth to DoD: The military needs more rockets, missiles, and bombs

[This piece has been published in Restoring America to highlight the importance of increased investment in U.S. military weaponry.]

Despite repeated assurances from Pentagon leaders that U.S. military munitions, ammo, missiles, bombs, and rocket stockpiles are adequate
, Congress is rightly worried. Across the defense bills moving on Capitol Hill are more funds for each of these priorities — wherever industry could absorb the added dollars.

Congress’ triage is extremely helpful to meet the moment, but Pentagon planners must lock in long-term contracts to beef up all of these inventories for the medium term. Not just because of what the U.S. is sharing with Ukraine — but because of our own brittle stockpiles and industrial base.

Industry leaders have been clamoring since early spring to tell defense officials they need long-term contracts signed now to ramp up factories and workforces that were shuttered long ago.

Just take the Javelin as an example. Earlier this year, Lockheed CEO Jim Taiclet said his company, along with Raytheon, makes the anti-tank missile. The current capacity is for these firms to build 2,100 Javelins per year, with a goal of 4,000 annually. This near-doubling of output is going to take a “couple of years” to achieve because the supply chain must be cranked up, Taiclet told CBS’s Margaret Brennan

In the words of Task & Purpose’s Jeff Schogol
, it’s “time for the military to stock up on things that go boom.” Comparing the Army’s request for about 150,000 of 155mm howitzer shells in fiscal year 2019 — an over 800% increase — the war in Ukraine has expended 806,000 of these same shells in just six months’ time.

Dr. Stacie Pettyjohn of CNAS characterized the military’s long-range anti-ship missile inventories as “grossly inadequate” in a war against China to Task & Purpose. She told Schogol that the U.S. military “does not have enough anti-ship or area-effects weapons for a maritime fight or to use against mobile ground forces, respectively.”

My AEI colleague Hal Brands has warned similarly that absent investment today, America can “get ready for ‘missile famine’ if there is a great-power war.”

Pentagon leaders are getting the message but still moving too slowly to action (read: contracts and dollars). In a conference sponsored by Defense News last week, Bill LaPlante, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, said industry needs multiyear contracts to persuade companies to “improve and expand their factories.”

Longer-term investments signal certainty to primes to invest, provide big savings for taxpayers over annual deals, and stabilize the supply chain and vendor base, LaPlante noted in a Defense One story summarizing his comments by Marcus Weisgerber.

While LaPlante is right to talk about the need for long-term contracts, it’s another thing to actually secure them. It’s past time for the Pentagon to do just that, and Congress should hold defense leaders’ feet to the fire. Given the glacial pace of the defense bureaucracy, these contracts need to be locked in soon, otherwise we may not have enough to share with partners like Ukraine, much less for ourselves if needed.

This article originally appeared in the AEIdeas blog and is reprinted with kind permission from the American Enterprise Institute.

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