The U.S. military---the strongest fighting force on Earth, flush with funding after the President signed the latest budget bill---may be facing a shortage of weapons in the future. That is one of the conclusions of the annual Industrial Capabilities Report issued by the Pentagon earlier this month. Specifically, the report warns about a shrinking number of suppliers for bombs at a time when the U.S. is expending them rapidly. "The U.S. is having trouble keeping its munition levels going," says Aaron Mehta, correspondent and associate editor for Defense News. "We've been using these things for 15 years regularly in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the pace in both those places has increased over the past year."
Mehta, who has reviewed the Pentagon report, says the issue is access to the parts and supplies used in military munitions. "There are pieces that are going to be hard to replace in the coming years," he tells KTRH. "There are things as simple as little fans that go into making these things, little engine parts, etc."
A major problem is that many of those materials are highly specialized, so there are only a few companies that produce them. "A lot of those companies, under sequestration and some of the budget cuts, have left the defense industry, and so now the (DoD) is finding that there are not places to replace those parts," says Mehta. In some cases, the only companies available to replace the parts are foreign-owned, by countries like China which may not have the best interests of the U.S. at heart.
The Pentagon is looking at the possibility of producing some of these necessary materials in-house, but that objective could take years to get off the ground. In the meantime, future munitions supplies and replacements continue to be a concern for military leaders. "Is this a near-term issue, that the U.S. is going to run out of munitions in the next three to five years? No, but this is a long-term issue that the Pentagon is very concerned about," says Mehta.