WASHINGTON — A top Navy admiral warned Wednesday that the US might have to “rob Peter to pay Paul” in a matter of months as Washington continues to supply Ukraine with weapons to fight off Russia’s ongoing invasion.
Defense industry leaders have said for months that US orders for Ukraine coupled with ongoing supply chain issues have affected their production, but Navy Fleet Forces commander Adm. Daryl Caudle said he is running out of patience.
“I am not forgiving the fact you’re not delivering the ordnance we need. OK? I’m just not,” he said at the Surface Navy Association Symposium in Arlington, Va. “This stuff about COVID this, parts, you know, supply chain this — I just don’t really care. I mean, we all got a tough job.”
“I need SM-6 [missiles] delivered on time. I need more Mark 48 torpedoes delivered on time,” Caudle said. “We’re talking about war-fighting, national security, and going against a competitor here and a potential adversary [China] that is like nothing we’ve ever seen. We can’t be dilly-dallying around with these deliveries.”
The US has sent Ukraine more than $20 million in military aid to battle the Russian attack that began nearly 11 months ago while simultaneously trying to keep its own armed forces stocked with crucial weaponry. Should the shipments continue at that pace, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro warned, “if the conflict does go on for another six months to another year, it certainly continues to stress the supply chain in ways that are challenging.”
“It’s obvious that these companies have a substantial pipeline for the future,” Del Toro added. “They now need to invest in their people — again, their workforce — as well as the capital investments that they have to make within their own companies to get their production rates up.”
Though their grievances were clear, neither Caudle nor Del Toro detailed just how depleted the service’s stockpile of ammunition have become.
The Pentagon and White House have been working with defense industry leaders to step up output for months. In October, President Biden enacted a provision of the Defense Production Act of 1950 that lets the US guarantee private-sector loans “for the purpose of expanding and accelerating the domestic production capability of critical weapons and equipment needed for national defense.”
“I hereby determine … that action is necessary to increase the production capacity of material critical to support the defense against adversarial aggression and that a shortfall in this area would severely impair national defense capability,” he said at the time.
The Defense Department spent more than $2.6 billion between May and October of 2022 replenishing stocks of key weaponry and equipment dispatched to Ukraine — but it will still take “multiple years” for the US to be fully resupplied, the Post reported in November.
While shortfalls remain, neither Caudle nor Del Toro called for the US to send fewer military aid packages to Ukraine.
Caudle said he was willing to work with industry “if there’s something we need to do better” to help them keep up with production needs, but “at the end of the day, I want the magazines filled. I want the ships’ [missile] tubes filled.”
“I’m very frustrated, as you can tell by what I’ve said, because it’s so essential to winning. And in my position and for the people in the room in uniform, that’s all that matters,” he said. “And I can’t do that without the ordnance … that’s how we actually win.”