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US War Stocks could go Winchester on Vital Ammo

Some things I learned in my ground combat experiences: Once his pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is no longer your friend. Friendly fire isn’t. Concealment is not the same as cover. Tracers point both ways. And you can never have enough ammo. Been thinking about that last one as I read a steady stream of reports from Pentagon pundits and other observers who are becoming increasingly concerned about America’s ready supply of ammunition in our country’s war fighting arsenal.

Well, yeah. Let’s face it, folks. In too many cases there’s just not enough shot in the locker to handle protracted combat with a peer adversary (read China or Russia) if we find ourselves downwind when serious defecation strikes the oscillation. The mighty American industrial machine that geared up to crank out tanks, munitions, and weapons at astounding rates to fight our past wars is not what it used to be by a long stretch. And given the current state of business affairs between the Pentagon and American industry writ large, manufacturers are not likely to step smartly onto a war footing if called on to do so.

Some of this has to do with our ongoing, appropriate—and currently stalled in Congress—support for Ukraine in its fight with land-grabbing Russian forces. It’s also impacted by our commitment to stand with the Israeli Defense Forces in their righteous slugfest with Hamas, Hezbollah, and other anti-Israeli factions. The numbers here are most telling considering just the shells pumped by the Ukrainians through the now nearly ubiquitous 155mm howitzer. Before Christmas 2023, the US has provided Ukraine with about 1 million rounds and demand has only increased as their war with Russia has morphed on front lines into a series of long-range artillery duels. Assuming our politicians can pull their thumbs out of the congressional butt, we’re facing a big draw on war contingency supplies—considering that American defense contractors currently produce less than 2,500 155mm rounds per month—and its prompted Army logisticians to pressure manufacturers to up their output significantly.

That’s just the stock suck on howitzer ammo. We are also tossing huge amounts of Javelin anti-tank missiles, Patriot AA missiles, Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), rocket reloads for the HIMARS weapons system, and a laundry list of other gear the Ukrainians consider battlefield necessities. How about what we’re sending regularly to Israel since the 7 October atrocities?

The IDF wants much of the same. More howitzer rounds (precision-guided, if we please), more JDAMs, plus 14,000 tank main-gun rounds which we tossed in under a State Department emergency requisition to supplement the latest air-launched small-diameter bombs and Hellfire missiles. In the end it amounts to a lot of stuff going out and only a relative trickle rolling in to replace our war-stocks against any ammo-eating worldwide contingency where American lives might be on the line beside or instead of our allies. And while I’m focused here primarily on ground combat munitions, the US Navy is also beginning to grouse about dwindling stocks of their Standard Missiles (SM-2 and 3) which are burning up the air over the Med in an effort to down Houthi drones and missiles threatening commercial shipping.

I’m certainly no isolationist. I understand the political realities of supporting what amounts to proxy wars in defense of principles like freedom, self-determination, and basic human rights. I also understand the wisdom of always having supplies on hand to meet unexpected contingencies. At the current rate of demand versus replenishment, it could take as much as a decade or more to restock our military arsenal. In today’s volatile worldwide environment, that could be a lethal delay.

There are—but should not be—elements of partisan politics in this situation. And so be it as part and parcel of the American way, but what’s needed is an objective reckoning of what we can afford to provide to our allies and what we need to maintain a realistic war-ready footing. We’ve got good people in uniform who understand the logistics of all this. We’ve got people in and out of uniform who can read spreadsheets and count. It would pay to take off the political blinders and listen to them. And it would be wise to remind various industrialists in this country, labor unions and voting citizens about the cost of being caught flat-footed by an enemy. Pearl Harbor in 1941 would be a good reference point.

Old Uncle Sam-0
Went for some ammo
To give his troopers some boom
But when he got there
The arsenal was bare
And so the poor troopers faced doom.

Sorry Mother Goose. Couldn’t resist.

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