The US Department of Defense is facing challenges in meeting the demands of the ongoing Ukraine conflict, according to a report by the Washington Post. The article warns that if the current production levels are not sustained, it could potentially compromise security within the country.
The US military contractors are expected to double the rate of standard NATO artillery round production in response to the current phase of the conflict. However, even with an increase to 28,000 shells per month, it is still inadequate to meet Ukraine’s growing need for artillery ammunition. Furthermore, the US is struggling to replenish its own arsenal due to a shortage of raw materials, specifically the explosive TNT, which is no longer produced domestically. The Pentagon currently relies on Poland for its supply of TNT, but has been actively searching for new suppliers, including in Japan.
Limited supplies of the propellant used in artillery shells, such as nitroglycerin and nitrocellulose, are also impeding defense contractors’ production capabilities. Martin Vencl, a spokesman for Czech propellant charge manufacturer Explosia, highlighted the scarcity of these raw materials.
In addition to the shortage of raw materials, bureaucratic hurdles have slowed the finalization of the Pentagon’s Ukraine-related production contracts. According to the article, only 40.8% of the contracts, amounting to $44.5 billion, have been completed. However, this is considered a relatively efficient performance as major defense contracts typically take up to 16 months to conclude. The Center for Strategic and International Studies, an industry expert, defended the figure as better than usual.
An unnamed Pentagon official suggested that to avoid future shortages, there needs to be a consistent high demand for ammunition. The official emphasized the importance of maintaining healthy stocks and a robust production and industrial base that can meet the demand. The Pentagon aims to increase artillery shell output to 1 million per year by the fall of 2025.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth acknowledged the need to reassess ammunition stock minimum standards and admitted that they may have underestimated the requirements based on the Ukrainian experience.
Despite the challenges faced, US President Joe Biden has requested an additional $20.6 billion for Ukraine from Congress. This comes as officials quietly admit that Kiev’s counteroffensive has not been successful, with minimal territorial gains since June. The Russian Defense Ministry estimates that Ukraine has lost 43,000 troops and nearly 5,000 pieces of equipment during this time.
In conclusion, the US Department of Defense is struggling to meet the demands of the Ukraine conflict due to a shortage of raw materials and bureaucratic hurdles. The shortage of explosive materials like TNT and propellant is hampering the defense contractors’ production capabilities. The Pentagon acknowledges the need for consistent high demand to maintain healthy stocks and a robust production base. Despite the challenges, President Biden has requested additional funds for Ukraine, although there are concerns about the effectiveness of the country’s counteroffensive.