A new Pentagon report finds the U.S. military is expending munitions at an increasingly rapid rate and questions whether the country will have the necessary manufacturing base to fulfill future needs.
The DOD’s annual Industrial Capabilities report — which was provided to the Senate and House Armed Services committees — concluded that the munitions sector industrial base is strained, due to the start-and-stop nature of procurement over the last 20 years and the lack of new designs being developed, according to Defense News.
Some suppliers have left the industry entirely in response to the haphazard procurement policies of the federal government.
“The loss of this design and production capability could result in costly delays, unanticipated expense, and a significant impact to many current and future missile programs, damaging the readiness of the Department (of Defense) and negatively impacting a foundational national defense priority by placing the ballistic missile production capability at risk,” according to the report.
Thomas Spoehr — the director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense — told The Western Journal, “There are very few U.S. producers of missile components like rocket engines, batteries and turbine engines, and some of those in the business now are considering leaving the market due to lack of business and ability to make a profit.”
He continued, “For example there are only two makers of solid rocket motors, and one is at risk of leaving the market.”
The report noted that two companies — Raytheon and Lockheed Martin — now account for 97 percent of the DOD’s munitions and missile procurement funding, giving them practically a duopoly over the industry.
Newsweek reported that the U.S. is running out of the munitions it uses in countries like Afghanistan.
“(T)he Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction concluded that 1,186 munitions were dropped in that country during the first quarter of 2018 — the highest number recorded for the first three months of the year since tracking began in 2013,” Defense News stated.
Spoehr observed, “Munitions have become a problem because of increased use overseas in Counter Terrorism operations, especially in operations to destroy ISIS.”
“The Trump administration has dramatically stepped up that fight in Syria and Afghanistan. Use of munitions is up 250 percent from this first quarter of 2018 compared to last year,” he said.
Another area of concern is that a key propellant ingredient used in missile systems ultimately came from China.
“Nearly all DoD missile systems use Dechlorane as a component in the insulation for their solid rocket motors. There is no domestic supplier for this material; the sole source is Occidental Chemical in Belgium,” according to a 2017 Pentagon report.
“Even more concerning is that the precursor to make Dechlorane came from China. The Chinese source can no longer produce that pre-cursor and so there is now no source for Dechlorane in the world.”
All this occurs as relations between the U.S. and China are strained over issues such as trade, North Korea and the militarization of the South China Sea.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon rescinded an invitation for China to participate in a biennial international naval exercise slated for next month, citing the Asian nation’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea.
“The exercise, also known as Rimpac, involves 27 nations in a display of international military cooperation,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
The newspaper added, “An invitation from the U.S. to take part in the exercise carries political cachet, offering legitimacy and acceptance to military forces taking part, an important benefit for China as it seeks to expand its global influence.”
— Lyle Morris (@LyleJMorris) May 24, 2018
DOD officials told The Wall Street Journal that the move is “an initial response” to China’s militarization of the islands in the South China Sea, which are positioned near sea lanes used to transit over $5 trillion in goods annually.
“We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea,” Lt. Col. Chris Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. “China’s landing of a bomber aircraft at Woody Island has also raised tensions.”
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