Sunday, April 16, 2023

Declining US Military Stockpiles and the Risk to National Security


The war in Ukraine has seen a significant shipment of US military stockpiles, resulting in some shortages of US equipment and munitions. For example, CSIS identified in its report Rebuilding U.S. Inventories: Six Critical Systems that 155-mm ammunition, Javelins, HIMARS, GMLRS, and Stinger have been used to such an extent that at current production rates, it will take years to rebuild stockpiles. Specifically, the replacement rate at current levels is estimated to take anywhere from 2.5 to 18 years, depending on the specific weapon or munition.

Not only does this present a national security issue for the US, but it also creates near- and medium- term issues for allies reliant on US weaponry. The Wall Street Journal’s report from last year, U.S. Effort to Arm Taiwan Faces New Challenge With Ukraine Conflict, indicates the impact that US stockpile deficiencies are having for the Taiwanese, particularly at a time when fears of military confrontation with China have heightened. While the Taiwanese government downplayed these reports, no denial was forthcoming, adding to the report’s credibility.

Therefore, as the war in Ukraine continues to drag on, with US involvement holding steady, if not increasing, military planners will need to make tough calls as stockpiles continue to deplete. At a minimum, ramping up US manufacturing to accommodate heightened military needs is a must. 

An additional step could be a reduction in arms shipments to Ukraine, which is the principal cause of declining inventories. Whether that comes through the successful implementation of a ceasefire and mediation process or a shift in policy priorities to key allies in other regions -- such as in the Asia-Pacific -- reducing support for Ukraine would afford the US a means to more effectively manage stockpile deficiencies in the short- to medium- term, especially as the defense industrial base begins a more rapid production cycle.

Failure to do so; however, will leave the US in a more vulnerable position at a time when great power competition is heating up globally, creating a more, not less, dangerous world.

No comments: