Ukraine War Has U.S. Javelin Missile Supply Down 33%; Biden Urged to Act

The Senate Armed Services Committee met on Tuesday to discuss "the health" of the U.S. defense industrial base and its capability to meet the needs of the nation's armed services.

The meeting revealed a serious supply issue stemming in part from U.S. support of Ukraine in its war with Russia.

"The United States military has probably sent about one-third of its Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine — one-third of our supply given to them," Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said during the hearing, which Newsweek attended. "Replenishing U.S. stocks or those weapons would require 32 months."

He raised concerns that if the nation continues to provide Ukraine with Javelin missiles under the current rate of domestic production, the U.S. may experience a significant shortage of this key weapon in the near future.

Blumenthal referenced the Defense Production Act, invoked in March 2020 during the first year of the pandemic and the last year of the Trump administration, when then-President Donald Trump directed manufacturers to produce Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), which was in short supply, while also seeking to prevent both hoarding and price gouging.

"Unless the president invokes the Defense Production Act to prioritize deliveries of components to the manufacturer to give that demand signal," Blumenthal said, "we will run out of these key arms."

The Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA) provides the president with emergency authority to require private businesses to accept and prioritize government contractions to produce goods deemed necessary to ensure the nation's security.

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The U.S. has exhausted a third of its javelin missile supply in support of Ukraine. Here, Ukrainian servicemen ride atop of an Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) with Javelin anti-tank missiles during a military parade in Kiev on August 24, 2018. Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images

When reached for comment, the Department of Defense issued a statement to Newsweek saying that it is examining all options to address the supply issue.

"The Department is assessing the use of all of its authorities that may help with the Ukraine crisis — including the Defense Production Act — to determine whether they are applicable or prudent," DoD Spokesperson Jessica Maxwell told Newsweek, "and is applying those authorities as needed to help replenish stockpiles in the most efficient manner."

Former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord, who served under the Trump administration and provided testimony before the committee, affirmed that the Act could be useful in replenishing America's Javelin stock.

"I think, DPA Title III, which allows the department to move money to industry to actually make the capital investments or train the workforce or develop the supply chain," Lord said, "is where you can really move the needle on this issue."

While this specific article of the Act may be useful in replenishing the Javelin supply, Lord noted that other of its provisions may make the acquisition process cumbersome.

She noted that under Title I of the Act defense items can be given a "DO rating" that puts their production ahead of other commercial items. The most critical goods are given "DX ratings," which are produced with even greater priority. However, she said this rating has been overused, and that the nation has not provided enough funding to produce these items with the speed expected.

Senate Armed Services Examines Defense Authorization Request
"Unless the president invokes the Defense Production Act to prioritize deliveries of components to the manufacturer to give that demand signal, we will run out of these key arms," Blumenthal stressed during the a meeting of the Armed Services Committee on April 26, 2022. Here, he speaks at an Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

This sentiment echoed a theme of the hearing, the idea that the country has not been sufficiently active in ensuring defense funding goes where it is most needed. Committee Chair Jack Reed, the senior Democratic senator for Rhode Island, highlighted that point in his opening statement, in which he cited concerns about a lack of competition within the industry,

"In the last three decades, the defense sector has consolidated substantially, transitioning from 51 aerospace and defense prime contractors down to just five," Reed said.

He attributed part of the nation's struggles to procure materials from companies outside the five prime contractors to burdens in the Department of Defense contracting process "that makes contracting with private industry far too difficult." He said these issues are highlighted in the nation's struggles to produce an adequate number of Javelins.

"The lack of responsive and rapidly scalable production capacity for consumable systems like Stinger and Javelin missiles highlights issues with our planning factors and manufacturing flexibility for long lead items needed in short order, with little to no advance warning," Reed said.

On Monday, Newsweek detailed the Biden's administrations efforts to increase the number of small business defense contractors. Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado, who sits on both the Armed Services and Small Business Committees, told Newsweek that one factor contributing to the problem is that the nation has "20th-century contracting rules and regulations in a 21st-century world."

David Berteau, president and chief executive officer of the Professional Services Council, a national trade association of the government technology and professional services industry, who also provided testimony alongside Lord, cited this as an issue that negatively impacts American competitiveness.

"It takes us today three years to do what China can do in three days in terms of deciding resourcing and getting started on something that needs to be done," he said in response to a question from Reed on critical issues facing the nation's defense base. "Those, I think, are the critical aspects that we need to address."

Newsweek contacted the White House for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Update 04/27/22, 12:40 p.m. ET: The White House responded to Newsweek's request for comment after publication with a referral to the Department of Defense, which provided the statement above. This article was updated to include that comment.