“The Ukraine conflict has been an important wake-up call for decision makers at the Pentagon,” says Martijn Rasser, director of technology and national security at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a think-tank. “What we’re looking at is the need for new industrial policy for the defence industrial base.”
The stakes are high. Experts say the US would probably struggle to supply its allies should another major conflict break out in parallel to the Ukraine war, such as potential Chinese military aggression against Taiwan.
The production challenge stems from the fact the Pentagon’s orders for weapons are not consistent between peacetime and war. Himars production was paused between 2013 and 2017, when combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were wound down, and Javelin production went from 1,300 a year in 2009 to 400 in 2013.
The US chronically under-invests in munitions, says Stacie Pettyjohn, director of the defence programme at CNAS, meaning the Pentagon typically does not have enough going into a conflict. Instead, it places orders in a reactionary manner.
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