Pentagon budget puts focus on munitions production as war in Ukraine hits stockpiles

In this photo provided by the Missile Defense Agency, the lead ground-based Interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in a “salvo” engagement test of an unarmed missile target Monday, March 25, 2019. In the first test of its kind, the Pentagon on Monday carried out the “salvo” intercept of an unarmed missile soaring over the Pacific, using two interceptor missiles launched from underground silos in southern California. (Missile Defense Agency via AP)

The Pentagon is looking to grow its munitions industrial base as Russia’s war in Ukraine has rapidly depleted U.S. stockpiles of missiles and ammunition. 

The details of the Defense Department’s $842 billion budget request for fiscal 2024, revealed Monday, boosts arms makers with $30.6 billion for missiles and munitions — nearly 12 percent more than what was enacted last year.

It also employs multiyear contracts, typically reserved for ships and aircraft, which allow defense companies to make weapons in bulk and count on steady production demand over several years.  

Officials say the move is meant to counter an aggressive China, Russia and Iran and ready the country for a future fight. 

“This latest budget expands production capacity even more and procures the maximum amount of munitions that are most relevant for deterring and, if necessary, prevailing over aggression in the Indo-Pacific,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told reporters Monday.  

She noted that almost one-third of the munitions budget request is for long-range fires, including hypersonic missiles and subsonic weapons. 

Hicks also said for several key munitions the department is “looking to make unprecedented use of new multiyear procurement flexibility provided by Congress” to “help us lock in critical investments, getting the most bang for the taxpayer’s buck, send industry a clear demand signal and be even better prepared to respond quickly to future contingencies.” 

“When it comes to munitions, make no mistake: we are buying to the limits of the industrial base, even as we are expanding those limits. And we’re continuing to cut through red tape and accelerate timelines,” she said. 

Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord, who later spoke to reporters as part of the budget rollout, said “Ukraine has really informed and highlighted the need to up our game here,” as far as the munitions request. 

But he pressed that not all the requested missiles are meant to replace those shipped to Ukraine. Rather, they’re seen as deterrence for an aggressive China in the Indo-Pacific.  

Hicks highlighted that effort in her speech, noting that the Pentagon’s greatest measure of success is to make sure China’s leadership “wakes up every day, considers the risks of aggression, and concludes ‘today is not the day.’” 

Split up, the $30.6 billion in munitions spending includes $17.1 billion for tactical missiles, $7.3 billion for strategic missiles and $5.6 billion for ammunition. Another $600 million is meant for technology development.  

Altogether, President Biden’s fiscal 2024budget would give the Pentagon a more than 3 percent bump, proposing $69 billion more than the $773 billion sought in fiscal 2023. 

In addition to dollars for munitions, the defense budget includes $170 billion for Pentagon weapons procurement, $145 billion for research and development and $37.7 billion to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal. 

Another $33.3 billion would go to DOD’s space activities, $29.8 billion for missile defeat and defense, $13.5 billion for cyber and $9.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. 

Biden also looks to boost U.S. troop and civilian workforce pay by 5.2 percent, which would be the largest military pay increase since 2002 and the largest civilian pay increase in 40 years if enacted.  

Tags Defense spending Joe Biden Kathleen Hicks Russia-Ukraine war

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