The US does not have the weapons and ammunition to send to Ukraine

As the first full winter of Russia’s war with Ukraine ends, the U.S. lacks some high-end weapons systems and ammunition to transfer to Kiev, three officials with direct knowledge tell CNN.

Pressure on weapons stockpiles — and the ability of the U.S. industrial base to keep up with demand — is one of the main challenges facing the Biden administration as the U.S. continues to send billions of dollars in arms to Ukraine to support its fight against Russia. Stocks of some organizations are “dwindling” after nearly nine months of supplies sent to Kiev during the high-intensity war, one of the officials said, because the U.S. has a “limited amount” of surpluses to send.

Sources said US stockpile weapons systems specifically include 155mm artillery shells and Stinger man-portable anti-aircraft missiles to meet Ukrainian demand.

Some sources also raise concerns about US production of additional weapons systems, including HARM supersonic air-to-surface anti-surface radar missiles, GMLRS surface-to-surface missiles and man-portable Javelin anti-tank missiles. .

For the first time in two decades, the United States is not directly involved in the conflict after withdrawing from Afghanistan and shifting to an advisory role in Iraq. Lacking the need to produce weapons and munitions for a war, the United States does not produce the materials needed to sustain a long-term, high-intensity conflict.

Defense officials say the crisis has not affected U.S. preparedness because the weapons being sent to Ukraine do not come from weapons the U.S. keeps for its own contingencies.

But officials say the severity of the problem is a source of debate within the defense industry. While the U.S. cannot supply Ukraine with high-grade ammunition indefinitely, a senior defense official said assessing whether U.S. stockpiles are “exhausted” is subjective because it depends on the risk the Pentagon is willing to take.

Many officials insisted that the U.S. would never compromise its own readiness, and that each export was weighed against its impact on U.S. strategic reserves and war plans. Both Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley are closely monitoring U.S. stockpile levels, officials said.

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A big manufacturing challenge

One of the reasons for concern about low inventories is that the U.S. manufacturing base is struggling to keep pace with demand, the sources said. Moreover, European allies could not adequately meet Ukrainian military demands.

“It’s getting harder,” Republican Mike Quigley, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN. “We thought it would be over in days, but it could drag on for years. At a time when global supply chains are weakening, the West will struggle to meet demands at this level.

Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told CNN that the United States will continue to support Ukraine until it is “taken” and that any arms transfer to Ukraine does not reduce U.S. military readiness.

“The Department of Defense considers the impact on our own readiness when we withdraw equipment from the U.S. stockpile,” Ryder said. “We were able to transfer equipment from U.S. stockpiles without reducing our own military readiness and continue to work with industry to replenish U.S. stockpiles and depleted stocks from allies and partners.”

At a press conference Wednesday following a meeting of Ukraine’s Defense Liaison Committee, Austin highlighted the commitment of a half-dozen countries to provide Ukraine with additional weapons, including Greece providing 155 mm ammunition.

“All Ukraine is asking for is the means to fight, and we are committed to providing the means. The Ukrainians will do that in their time, and until then, we will continue to support them as long as it takes,” Milli told a news conference. . “It’s clear to me and to the contact group today that this is not just an American position, this is the position of all countries that have ever been. We will support Ukraine until it is free again.”

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As the U.S. Defense Department is better equipped to ramp up production of some weapons, others struggle more — or the supply chain. Production was completely stopped. Can’t restart easily.

“In most cases, the amounts given to Ukraine are relatively small compared to U.S. stocks and productivity. However, some U.S. stocks reach the minimum required for combat plans and training,” he wrote in a September article, according to Mark Cancion, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “A key assessment of ammunition and weapons is the risk America is willing to take.”

For example, the Pentagon said in a September fact sheet that it allocated more than 806,000 155mm artillery shells to Ukraine. Ammunition for the 155 mm howitzers is “probably close to the limit,” Kanzian wrote, that the United States is willing to supply without risking its own weapons capability. At the same time, he wrote that a dozen other countries can provide the same ammunition, and Ukraine will not be limited in need thanks to the global market.

“Some say it’s uncomfortably low — that’s an estimate,” Doug Bush, the Army’s assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology, told reporters. “It’s a risk assessment between sending munitions to an ally to use in war against a hypothetical other contingency. It’s something we need to stock up on.”

Stocks are under pressure “without a doubt.”

Colin Kall, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for policy, told reporters at a recent roundtable that there is no question that arms shipments to Ukraine have put pressure on U.S. stocks and industry and its allies.

“We have the first example in decades of a real high-intensity conventional conflict and the pressure it puts not only on the countries involved, but on the defense industries of the countries they support, in this case Ukraine,” Call said. “I would say that Secretary (Lloyd) Austin has been focused on this from the beginning, making sure that we’re not taking unnecessary risks. That is, we’re not drawing down our reserves to the extent that we’re undermining our readiness and our ability to respond to another major contingency somewhere else in the world.”

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Call added that U.S. support for Ukraine does not put the U.S. military “in a precarious position as it relates to another major contingency somewhere in the world.” But he said it revealed there is still a lot of work to do to ensure the US defense department is more agile and efficient.

The arms buildup issues arise as Congress finalizes the Pentagon’s budget for the current year through the National Defense Authorization Act and the government’s spending package. Congress is expected to try to pass the budget before the state budget expires on December 16.

The U.S. military often turns to Congress for funding — lawmakers routinely add billions in annual spending bills to the Pentagon’s budget requests.

The Biden administration on Tuesday sent a letter to Congress asking for an additional $37.7 billion in funding for Ukraine. $21.7 billion of this funding goes to the Pentagon to address the arms shortage, according to a White House document, and the money the Defense Department will spend “on equipment for Ukraine, replenishment of Defense Department reserves, and continued military, intelligence and other security support.”

The $37.7 billion request comes as Republicans regain a majority in the House of Representatives in the next Congress, which could make it harder for the Biden administration to approve funding for Ukraine next year. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said Republicans won’t give Ukraine a “blank check” — though he made clear to foreign policy hawks in his conference that he supports continued funding for the Ukraine war. A reduction in US aid to Ukraine.

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