How quickly can the U.S. replenish weapons stockpiles that have been partially depleted because of the invasion of the Ukraine…?
That seemed to be the main question Missouri U.S. Senator Roy Blunt directed on Tuesday to Army Chief of Staff General James C. McConville and Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth.
Blunt also addressed impacts of the Army’s end-strength cuts on military installations, including Fort Leonard Wood, during Tuesday’s hearing in front of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
See the full video below:
WASHINGTON – At a U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) questioned Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and Chief of Staff of the Army General James C. McConville about the need to quickly replenish U.S. weapons stockpiles, the impact of Army end strength cuts on military installations, including Fort Leonard Wood, and how lessons learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will inform future weapons systems.
Following is a Transcript:
BLUNT: Secretary, last week at the hearing, Secretary Austin stated that we would replace our munitions sent to Ukraine in the span of one year. Doesn’t look like, to me, from looking at that a little further, that’s likely to be possible. I think the Javelins, probably closer to 18 to 24 months. And the Stinger missiles—we haven’t bought a Stinger missile, according to the CEO of Raytheon, for 18 years. Talk to me a little about whether you think that one year is possible, and, if not, our efforts—how important it is that we get our stockpile of those two weapons at least back to where they were before the war began.
WORMUTH: Senator, I think, you know, the timelines for replenishment vary depending on what the systems are. You are right that we have not had an open production line for Stinger for some time. We do still have some missiles, some Stinger missiles, that we can provide. But there is an obsolete part that we’re going to have to figure out how to work around. You know, do we design around that or bring forward sort of a next generation Stinger? And I think that will take a little more time. And, to your point, yes, I do think on the Javelins, I think Raytheon is trying to really accelerate, you know, whether they can come inside of a one-year period. I am not sure. I think it may take a little more time. But we are trying to work aggressively with industry and—
BLUNT: And you’re committed to replacing those stockpiles, at least to the level that they were at? And there may be some congressional discussion about moving higher than the past level.
WORMUTH: We certainly want to make sure that we continue to have our, at least, our minimum requirement. So yes, I think we want to replenish and continue to be able to provide to the Ukrainians.
BLUNT: And, General McConville, the Army is reluctantly, I think, requesting a reduced end strength in this budget because of recruiting. How’s that going to affect a basic training post like Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri?
MCCONVILLE: Well, I think what we’ll see, Senator, is we’ll have less young men and women coming through training. We see as a momentary pause. And when we say recruiting, we’re talking a couple thousand that’s spread out around a couple of posts. So I can get you the exact numbers, but it might be a couple hundred less coming through training. But we’re hoping, with a call to service, we’re going to see young men and women that want to come back into the service, and we need to do that.
BLUNT: Well, I hope so, too. And we’ll be watching that. The Defense Department—you know, this budget was really produced before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, before you got the FY22 bill. And, on research and development, the Defense Department, in the transition materials, said the highest research and development number we’ve ever asked for, and then you got a higher number than that in the 22 budget, which I hope we match that number and exceed it. But what are we learning from what’s going on in Ukraine right now, in terms of our weapons systems, the way that even a land war like this is being fought differently? I think, General, I’ll go to you first on that.
MCCONVILLE: Well, Senator, what we’re learning is, at least we’re reinforcing confidence in where we’re going with our research development in our future weapons systems. We know—we believe, if we had the, you know, us or our allies and partners have the Long Range Precision Fires in place that we’re developing, they would be very, very effective against the Russians because they would be able to take their artillery out. They’d be able to take the command control posts out. We think that the ship-seeking capability is great to have. That deters any type of amphibious operations that a future adversary may want to do. We think where we’re going with air and missile defense, and especially a focus on countering unmanned aerial systems, is going to provide some great capabilities that we’re going to need to have to deter future adversaries. Long range aircraft, when we look at the speed, the range, and the convergence of the future battlefield, we feel very, very comfortable with them. So, as we look at each system, we’re weighing that on how that work[s] in either in Ukraine or against a more sophisticated adversary. We feel we’re going in the right direction.
BLUNT: Well, and I think, looking at what’s happened with drones and other things that haven’t been in warfare before, I think we knew there were some weaknesses of the Russian tanks. But I don’t think we anticipated quite how vulnerable they have turned out to be. So this is an important time for us to think about what our structure should look like. And, Secretary, as Vice Chairman Shelby said, you know, the fact that the 22 budget was bigger than you would have expected maybe when you submitted this, the inflation number is way off. And I think we’re all looking at our weapon systems, as General McConville just mentioned, in a different way. I’d expect this is going to be a very vigorous discussion with the committee and the chairman and vice chairman as to what this budget needs to look like differently than maybe we would have thought in March of this year. And I look forward to working with you on that, and you, too, Chairman.