Magazine article National Defense

U.S. Facing Alarming Ammunition Shortfalls. (President's Perspective)

Magazine article National Defense

U.S. Facing Alarming Ammunition Shortfalls. (President's Perspective)

Article excerpt

Since the war against terrorism started last October, the Defense Department has requested--and Congress appropriated--several billion dollars in supplementary funding for military equipment needed to fight the war.

A portion of that money is being used to speed up production of smart ammunition, as well as to replenish conventional stockpiles. For example, the recent $20 billion Defense Emergency Reserve Fund (DERF) included nearly $1 billion for precision-guided weapons and $93 million for training munitions.

These emergency appropriations ate necessary during wartime, so we avoid depleting our reserves. But the supplemental funding only addresses the near-term shortfalls.

The U.S. military services confront a much larger, long-term problem when it comes to their ammunition accounts and the ability of the industrial base to surge the production of smart munitions. Of particular concern is the situation that confronts the U.S. Army. The Army not only buys and maintains its own ammo stockpiles, but also serves as the single manager of conventional ammunition for all the services.

The Army is responsible for managing a $2.5 billion annual ammunition program (including research, development, procurement, operations and maintenance).

The problems in the ammunition base were highlighted in a white paper published in February by the Institute of Land Warfare of the Association of the U.S. Army.

It's not a pretty picture. Because the ammunition budgets have been hundreds of millions of dollars short every year during the past decade, the Army is woefully short of the critical, state-of-the-art munitions that are needed for combat in the 21st century.

The current stockpiles are aging rapidly. An aging stockpile is not only costly to maintain but also expensive to demilitarize. Meanwhile, of great concern to NDIA are the implications these problems have for the nation's defense and industrial preparedness.

The fact is that the U.S. ammunition production base is suffering. According to the white paper, the Army is not financially able to make up preferred munitions shortfalls during a major conflict. The estimated replenishment time for many preferred munitions (120mm tank and most artillery and mortar ammunition) is at least three years. In essence, the United States lacks an adequate surge capability.

A report by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that government-owned ammunition plants, which are managed by the Army, lack modern equipment, have inadequate quality control processes and have not implemented modern business practices. …

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