Milley: The US has a long way to go in building ammunition stockpiles

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military “still has a long way to go” to bolster itss ammunition stocks and ensure the country is ready for any large-scale war, the top US military officer told Congress on Wednesday.

Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the war in Ukraine underscored the heavy use of munitions required in any major conflict.

He and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin have been repeatedly questioned by members of Congress this week about the impact of the war on the Pentagon, as it provides Ukraine with much of the ammunition it needs to fend off Russian forces.

She and senior army leaders said the conflict has pushed the US to increase production rates and reassess how much supply is really needed tensions with China and Russia continue to rise.

“If there were a war on the Korean peninsula or a great power war between the United States and Russia or the United States and China, consumption rates would go off the charts,” Milley told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. “That’s why I’m worried. I know the secretary… we still have work to do to ensure our stock levels are prepared for the real eventuality.”

He said Austin directed the military to conduct a full review of all of its war plans and assess munitions estimates, which could then form the basis of future budget requests.

The Pentagon is requesting $30 million in the fiscal 2024 budget to invest in the industrial base and “buy the maximum number of munitions that American industry can produce,” Austin said during the same hearing.

In testimony earlier this week, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told lawmakers that the Army is currently “comfortable that the amount of lethal assistance we have provided is not undermining our preparedness, but we are keeping a close eye on this.”

A major concern is the 155mm ammunition. The US has sent Ukraine 160 howitzers and more than 1 million of the 155mm howitzer shells. The ammunition was used heavily at up to 3,000 rounds per day, according to the Pentagon.

Wormuth, who visited the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant in Pennsylvania, where the cartridge cases for the rounds are made, said the service had requested a $1.5 billion budget to support that production. She said the US wants to ramp up production from about 20,000 shells a month to 75,000 a month by 2025.

“We are working very closely with the industry to do everything we can to make it easier for them to scale up both the volume of their production and the speed of their production,” she said.

When asked about the impact on American troops, General James McConville, Army Chief of Staff, said the military goes through about 150,000 rounds of training a year — or about 14,000 a month.

Another pressure point is the ammunition for the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, which the US is also sending to Ukraine. Wormuth said the US is working to increase production from about 6,000 a year to 15,000 a year.

Austin and Wormuth also said the Pentagon hopes Congress will allow it to create multi-year procurement plans to save money and bring stability to the industry.

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