Pentagon officials are concerned that U.S. ammunition stocks donated to Ukraine have severely depleted U.S. stocks, weakening U.S. readiness in the event of a conflict, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The Biden administration has drawn much of the over $13 billion in weapons systems and accompanying ammunition the U.S. has provided to Ukraine from existing arsenals, according to the WSJ. While the Department of Defense has declined to disclose the number of ammunition rounds in storage at the beginning of 2022, before the war in Ukraine began, it has taken few steps to replenish depleting stocks, sparking worries that the U.S. may not have the ammunition it needs for its own protection.
The level of 155mm combat rounds, fired by the howitzer weapons system, in U.S. stockpiles has become “uncomfortably low,” a Pentagon official told the WSJ. The U.S. has sent 806,000 rounds of the 100-pound explosives to Ukraine as of Aug. 24.
“It is not at the level we would like to go into combat,” the defense official told the WSJ. U.S.-supplied howitzers have seen extended use from Ukrainian forces since entering the conflict in late May, Fox News reported.
Last week, the U.S. provided smaller 105mm ammunition to feed Ukraine’s howitzers in order to spare 155mm rounds for the U.S., according to the WSJ. The U.S. military most recently employed howitzers in a strike on Iran-backed targets in Syria on Aug. 24.
Depleting U.S. arsenals “was forewarned, including from industry leaders to the Pentagon. And it was easily fixable,” Mackenzie Eaglen, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the WSJ.
The Army plans to conduct a “deep dive” into the “ammunitions industrial base” to determine the best way to support Ukraine while retaining necessary supplies for the U.S., Army officials told the WSJ. It has requested an additional $500 million yearly for upgrades to ammunition factories and increasing the threshold on existing production contracts, but has not signed any new contracts.
Officials also said that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley authorized monthly reviews of U.S. weapons stores to monitor readiness. However, defense industry leaders said the administration has not clearly communicated the changes in production requirements brought on by U.S. assistance to Ukraine and has not expanded production capacity to make up for the additional munitions needed to replenish stocks.
The Biden administration has requested a record $773 billion defense budget for 2023. While additional funding can alleviate part of the problem, ongoing supply chain issues can make the months or years-long manufacturing process take even longer, according to the WSJ.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
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