After almost running out of a key weapon to support Ukraine’s defensive war against Russia, the U.S. Army has sped up production of it, but even that increase rate isn’t enough to fill up U.S. stores.
According to Defense News, in September, Bill LaPlante, the Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment at the Department of Defense, raised the goal for 2025 from 85,000 per month to 100,000 per month. This is more than the Pentagon had originally planned.
As of late, the Pentagon has been announcing a lot of production contracts to feed Ukraine’s artillery units until the war ends. However, retired Col. Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that keeping up that production capacity during peacetime is yet another politically sensitive issue.
“The U.S. is surging more than the U.S. had planned back in January,” Cancian told the DCNF.
“The fundamental problem is Ukraine is firing 150,000 to 300,000 rounds per month, and the United States is talking about getting up to 100,000 per month in two years. If the war continued, even if we got up to that level, we still wouldn’t have enough,” he said.
They say that during the most intense gun fights, Ukraine goes through up to 8,000 155mm rounds every day.
The United States gives most of these rounds. As of September 21, Pentagon records show that it had sent more than 2 million 155mm howitzer rounds and more than 7,000 precision-guided 155mm rounds.
Cancian told the DCNF that the military likes to keep a total stock of about 2 million rounds because U.S. troops use about 100,000 rounds every year just for training.
Defense officials and experts were afraid that the U.S. would run out of the commonly used round because gun stocks were being used up quickly. Lack of supplies could hurt Ukraine’s ability to fire at short range in a war that relies on attrition-based gun tactics, while also making the US less ready.
“The bottom of the barrel is now visible,” Adm. Bob Bauer, NATO’s top military official warned on Tuesday. “We give away weapons systems to Ukraine, which is great, and ammunition, but not from full warehouses.”
Thursday, the Army said that it had given a total of $1.5 billion in just the last two weeks of September to buy “each major component, material, or required production process to maintain momentum” in order to meet the production goal.
When Congress allows “multi-year procurement,” the Department of Defense can briefly skip the annual budget cycle and enter into long-term contracts. The awards will go to several contracting centers in the U.S. and partner countries like Poland, India, and Canada.
Inside Defense revealed that the Army gave out the first of four multi-year contracts in August 2023. These contracts are meant to increase production of 155mm weaponry. Work will go on until the end of the fiscal year in 2027.
Also, on September 27, the Department of Defense (DoD) said that American Ordnance and General Dynamics Ordnance & Tactical Systems would receive $974 million to make 155 mm M1128 high-explosive missiles.
Cancian thought it would only take a short time to rebuild U.S. stocks at the expected high production rates after the war ended.
Cancian stated that in order to boost production, new facilities must be brought online, and possibly even more must be built. Also, equipment must be kept in good working order even when it’s not being used. That costs money, and a lot of people, including some lawmakers who control spending, think it’s a waste.
“The question is, how do you maintain that surge capability once peacetime returns? DOD is wrestling with that,” Cancian said.
The Army did not answer the DCNF’s request for feedback right away.