Weekly Column

Sep 26 2022

Military Preparedness

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I believe it’s critical we ask ourselves the following the questions:

Is the United States fully prepared to respond to the changing threat environment of the 21st century? And if we are not, what actions do we need to take?

There is no one-size fits all solution, but one immediate action we can take to boost our preparedness is to strengthen U.S. munitions manufacturing.

Unfortunately for years, we’ve underinvested in our munitions production. Today, I want to highlight why it’s vital that we reverse that trend.

First, investing in munitions productions would help to expand currently busy production lines. This in turn, will have an immediate, positive effect on our military readiness. 

Second, doing so will also ensure the United States has the ability to surge munitions production in a time of emergency.

During a crisis, surge capacity is one lever the Department of Defense must be able to pull to ensure decisionmakers have a range of options at their disposal.

Just look at how quickly Russia and Ukraine are running through munitions.

According to the Royal United Services Institute, or RUSI, Ukraine needs approximately 500 Javelin missiles every single day. The United States only produces around 2,100 missiles a year. 

When the report was published in June, RUSI also estimated Russia had used between 1,100 to 2,100 missiles during their invasion of Ukraine. That means “in three months of combat, Russia has burned through four times the U.S. annual missile production” for cruise missiles. 

You can do the math and pretty quickly come up with future scenarios where demand starts to strain supply.

Another factor is China.

According to DOD’s 2019 Missile Defense Review, “a key component of China’s military modernization is its conventional ballistic missile arsenal designed to prevent U.S. military access to support regional allies and partners.” 

And since then, China’s arsenal has continued to rapidly grow. 

These are important reference points that our nation will have to navigate.

This should not be interpreted as fearmongering. I want to be clear that I have every confidence in our military’s ability to defend this nation. 

Army Assistant Secretary Doug Bush recently explained, for example, that he was “not uncomfortable” with our stockpile levels.

However, as Assistant Secretary Bush noted, the Army is “doggedly working with industry […] to boost the production of certain weapons systems to keep Kyiv armed and the U.S. well stocked.”

In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that “in the U.S., it takes 13 to 18 months from the time orders are placed for munitions to be manufactured, according to an industry official. Replenishing stockpiles of more sophisticated weaponry such as missiles and drones can take much longer.”

The United States, our allies, or our partners need these munitions.

The challenge is that years of underinvestment has reduced our production capacities and the speed at which we can respond to increased demand.

Congress should take a few actions to address this challenge.

First, invest more in our munitions production capacity.

Second, pass a clean National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) without delay.

I secured an amendment in this year’s Senate NDAA to require the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to produce an annual report on our industrial base and potential constraints for munitions production.

This type of reporting should help to further identify gaps in our production capacity, so we can further refine future investments.

We know our adversaries will continue threatening global stability. We know that our allies and partners will continue to need munitions. And we know the United States needs to be prepared for any scenario that threatens our national security.

The best response to these stark and immediate realities is to expand our ability to produce the things we need to defend ourselves. If we do that, the greater our capacity is to project strength, react to any scenario, and better support allies and partners.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week. 

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