WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army's deputy chief of staff for logistics said he is concerned about the service's shrinking munitions stockpile.
Years of budget cuts have led to a growing shortage of munition production to restore what the Army has expended in various contingencies, and Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee said repeatedly at a House Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing Wednesday that more munitions are needed.
"Today I think we have adequate munitions for our normal requirements," he said. "But if we had to surge, if we had contingency operations and if there continues to be emerging threats we see around the world, I am very concerned with our current stockage of munitions."
Munitions in question include Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles for both the Patriot and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems, Hellfire missiles, precision guidance kits, and Excalibur munitions fired from Howitzers.
If given the opportunity, Piggee said, he would put building up the Army's "munitions warehouse" as one of his top priorities.
In the Army's unfunded requirements lists for fiscal 2017 and 2018 — sent to Congress in December — the service asks to procure more Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles along with improving short-range air defense capabilities.
And in 2018, the Army would like to spend $1.5 billion to procure enough fires capacity in five years for U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command and Korea, and would extend the life of the Army Tactical Missile System while accelerating its long-range missile replacement. This would address shortfalls in the quantity of available missiles and artillery.
Funds would also extend the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System range and upgrade its seeker among other investments in ammunition and missiles.
Also in 2018, the Army would spend another $1 billion to upgrade short-range air defense capabilities and Patriot missiles and radars.
A March 3 letter from the HASC to the House Budget Committee regarding its views on the 2018 budget shows it shares the Army's and other services' concerns when it comes to depleting munitions stockpiles.
"The military services have significant unfunded requirements for replacement ammunition and munitions," the letter states.
The committee acknowledges how the services got into this position: "Five years of sequestration and continuing resolutions, the military services have been severely limited in what they can reasonably afford regarding munitions modernization and in building capacity in current munitions inventories."
If Congress doesn’t address the unfunded requirements laid out by the Army and the other services, the military would not be able to replenish war reserve stocks nor would it be able to increase production capacity for munitions. And in some cases, the lead time for munitions production can be as long as 18 months, the letter notes.
Piggee also said he would like to prioritize ensuring Army pre-positioned stocks, or APS, are "maintained at a high-degree of readiness." These stocks are set up around the world to support early entry forces and meet combatant commanders’ needs in specific regions.
The Army is trying to build out a second APS set in Europe and wants to ensure it consists of the most modernized equipment available, Piggee said.
The HASC letter also notes this need. "Funding in FY18 would allow the Army to accelerate the pre-positioning of modernized equipment to Europe, grow a new armored brigade combat team and build a new combat aviation brigade in Europe."
Not funding such efforts would "greatly impact the credibility of the U.S. deterrence posture in Europe against further Russian aggression along NATO’s eastern flank."
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.