Pass The Ammunition: Army Taking Action on Small-Cal Shortages
A modernization plan for old machinery is being matched with a new procurement strategy, as the U.S. Army upgrades its manufacturing facilities and reaches out to more contractors to replenish its diminished supply of small-caliber ammunition.
Among the most debilitated munitions stocks are .50 caliber and 7.62 mm rounds, which have few reserves, a low production rate and some of the oldest assembly-line machines. Meanwhile, demand for direct fire ammunition remains high thanks to use in war zones and in live-fire exercises that precede deployments.
Emergency contracts for small-caliber ammunition in 2004 included deals with firms located in Israel and South Korea. The budget for ammunition and expanded production has increased to $285 million in 2005, including $100 million in supplemental funds for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
National Defense Magazine reports that rather than build new government-owned production plants, outsourcing has been the military response. By the end of the year, they report that the U.S. Army will issue a contract for 300 million rounds, with major ammunition supplier selected as a lead systems integrator. The winning contractor will have to produce rounds at its facilities. If there is a need in 2006, a contingency contract may be issued for another 200 million rounds.
Meanwhile, the military is trying to maximize production at its sole remaining small caliber plant in Lake City, MO. In 2000, Lake City delivered 350 million rounds a year; it now produces 1.2 billion rounds annually, and is aiming for 1.5 billion by consolidating infrastructure, standing up mothballed equipment, modernizing wherever possible without shutdowns, and hiring new shifts. Like their fellows in the shipbuilding industry, there are also calls for better forecasting, more lead time, and less “yo-yoing” of requests.
- Stephen Trimble, The DEW Line (May 2007) – It’s the Bullets, Stupid. What do small-caliber ammunition manufacturing and capacity improvement efforts tell us about the war?
- DID (Sept 1/05) – US Ammo Shortage: GD Now A Second Source Prime as it Delivers Guns, Ammo
- National Defense Magazine’s July 2005 issue has more on this issue; as does
- Army Magazine – September 2005 issue.
- US Government Accountability Office (Report #GAO-05-687, July 27/05) – Defense Ammunition: DOD Meeting Small and Medium Caliber Ammunition Needs, but Additional Actions Are Necessary.
DID has also kept on covering this issue and related developments.