Lawmakers worry about weapons-makers' ability to meet demand

Caroline Coudriet, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers are sounding the alarm about challenges facing the U.S. defense industrial base as the war in Ukraine strains weapon supplies.

It could take years to replenish certain types of weapons the U.S. has sent to Kyiv, with no easy way to ramp up production quickly. That has policymakers deeply concerned about whether the U.S. would be able to field enough weapons if conflict broke out in the Taiwan Strait.

The House Armed Services Committee is set to examine the defense industrial base during its second hearing of the year on Wednesday.

“This ought to be a flashing red light for us, and it’s shocking to me,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said during an event at the American Enterprise Institute in late January. “This is a huge, glaring problem. And right now I don’t see the sort of all-hands-on-deck commitment to try to address that.”

The issue could prove crucial as Congress considers its annual defense policy legislation. After President Joe Biden sends Congress his fiscal 2024 budget in March, the defense committees will begin compiling the mammoth bill, with a House markup expected in the late spring or summer.

“We need to increase that ability to surge when we need it, which means we desperately need to increase our manufacturing base for key weapons systems,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a Fox News interview. “It’s a huge priority for our committee to increase that production capacity.”


Pressing shortages

According to a report published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the U.S. could run out of critical weapons like long-range, precision-guided munitions less than a week into a possible Taiwan Strait war.

The report stresses that U.S. aid to Ukraine is not the problem in and of itself, since a war in the Indo-Pacific would largely require different types of weapons. But the sheer number of munitions required to sustain Ukraine — where the U.S. is not even actively involved — clarifies how quickly stockpiles could be depleted if another war broke out.

“The war in Ukraine has shown us that our industrial base is not prepared,” said CSIS International Security Program director Seth G. Jones, the report’s author. “It’s not producing the kinds of munitions and materiel we need for a conventional war and for conventional deterrence. So, you know, it’s a wake-up call.”


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