The Pentagon has reported that the ammunition consumption in the Ukraine war has cut into the American munitions stockpiles in a major way, putting the US in a vulnerable position as regards readiness for a contest with China. By devoting millions of rounds of munitions to Ukraine since Russia invaded, the US stockpiles have been drained, setting off alarm bells on the state of our arsenal. Senior leaders in the DOD and military service branches, now deeply concerned, have warned that colossal challenges must be faced by the US to rebuild to the required level to counter China and, in the meantime, the US remains vulnerable. The Biden administration’s $842 billion budget request for the fiscal year 2024 included $30 million to build up the weapon manufacturing sector and for the DOD to “buy the maximum number of munitions that American Industry can produce,”.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, one of the Pentagon leaders overseeing the hearings in March, views the consumption of conventional munitions in Ukraine as one of the big lessons coming out of the conflict, which is a limited regional war. This reveals the incredible consumption rates and questions what might happen if there was a future great power war, stating, “the consumption rates would be incredible.”
This conflict has shown that the gaps present major issues to the US’s defense strategy in terms of undermining deterrence. Furthermore, neighboring rivals, such as China, could feel their military power is greater than they previously believed. The US must transition from having just-in-time stockpiles of weapons and munitions to just-in-case stockpiles to be better prepared for any future conflicts.
The Defense Department is reviewing plans to determine a course of action on how expenditure estimates should be managed concerning munitions usage. However, the US could struggle to manage a future great power war, which as Milley notes, “God forbid it does.” The US consumption rates of these conventional munitions have been astronomically high in a limited regional war, questions remain about how much the US can consume or how much they will if a full-scale, great-power war occurs. Republicans warn that the US’s stockpiles, and transactions concerning munitions supply, must be seriously assessed to avoid a shortage or vulnerability.