by Countercurrents Collective — 01/04/2023
U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has commented on problems in stockpile of U.S. ammunitions and prospect of Ukraine winning the war this year.
An AP report — “Top of Form
Milley: US has long way to go to build munitions stockpile” (March 30, 2023) — said:
The U.S. military “has a long ways to go” to beef up its munitions stockpiles and ensure the country is ready for any large-scale war, the top U.S. military officer told Congress on Wednesday.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the war in Ukraine has underscored the heavy use of munitions that is required during any major conflict.
He and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faced repeated questioning from members of Congress this week about the impact the war is having on the Pentagon, as it supplies Ukraine with much of the ammunition it needs to fend off the Russian forces.
They, and senior Army leaders, said the conflict has pushed the U.S. to increase production rates and re-evaluate how much of a stockpile is really needed as tensions with China and Russia continue to rise.
“If there was a war on the Korean peninsula or great power war between the United States and Russia or the United States and China, the consumption rates would be off the charts,” Milley said in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. “So I’m concerned. I know the secretary is … we have got a ways to go to make sure our stockpiles are prepared for the real contingencies.”
He said Austin directed the military to conduct a complete review of all its war plans and assess the munitions estimates, which can then form the basis for future budget requests.
The report said:
The Pentagon is requesting $30 million in the 2024 fiscal year budget to invest in the industrial base and to “buy the maximum number of munitions that American industry can produce,” Austin said during the same hearing.
In testimony earlier this week, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told lawmakers that right now the Army is “comfortable that the amount of lethal assistance we’ve been providing is not eroding our readiness, but we keep a close eye on that.”
A key concern is the 155 mm ammunition. The U.S. has sent Ukraine 160 howitzers and more than 1 million of the 155 mm howitzer rounds. The munitions have been put to heavy use with as many as 3,000 rounds fired a day, according to the Pentagon.
Wormuth, who visited the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant in Pennsylvania where the shell casings for the rounds are made, said the service asked for $1.5 billion in the budget to be able to shore up that production. She said the U.S. would like to increase production from about 20,000 shells a month to 75,000 a month by 2025.
“We are working very closely with industry to try to do everything we can to help make it easier for them to increase both the volume of their production but also the speed of their production,” she said.
Asked about the impact on American troops, Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army, said the military goes through about 150,000 rounds a year for training — or roughly 14,000 a month.
Another pressure point is ammunition for the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, which the U.S. is also sending to Ukraine. Wormuth said the U.S. is working to increase production from about 6,000 a year to 15,000 a year.
Austin and Wormuth also said the Pentagon is hoping that Congress will allow it to do multi-year procurement plans in order to save money and provide stability for the industry.
Ukraine’s Prospects In The War
Ukraine’s stated objective of expelling all Russian “invaders” is unlikely to be achieved this year, General Mark Milley said in an interview on Friday. His comments came as Kiev both announced a grand spring offensive and complained about not having all the weapons needed for it.
President Vladimir Zelensky said that Ukraine’s objective is “to kick every Russian out of Russian-occupied Ukraine,” Milley told the outlet Defense One. (https://www.defenseone.com/threats/2023/03/ukraine-victory-unlikely-year-milley-says/384681/) He said: “And that is a significant military task. Very, very difficult task.”
“I am not saying it cannot be done,” Milley added. “I do not think it is likely to be done in the near term for this year.”
This is not the first time Milley has voiced skepticism about a Ukrainian military victory. At a press conference in November, he said the probability of Kiev taking Crimea “anytime soon is not high.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba has urged the U.S. and its allies to continue sending Ukraine weapons and money, even if the offensive doesn’t achieve 100% of its objectives.
His deputy Andrey Melnik told the German outlet Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the attack is not quite ready just yet.
“We do not want to start a counteroffensive until we are prepared,” he said. “We have approximately 50-60 Western tanks now, but the Russians have been able to produce ten tanks a day. This means we will be unable to achieve a decisive advantage on the battlefield for a long time to come.”
Melnik’s remarks came in the context of a call for more weapons, as he argued that the West should not draw a “red line” at supplying Ukraine with fighter jets.
The U.S. and its allies have sent over $100 billion worth of weapons, ammunition and equipment to Kiev by the end of 2022, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
Milley told Defense One that the US military industry will take “probably several years” to replenish its stockpiles and meet the Pentagon’s needs. It is “not going to be done by magic overnight” and will be “very expensive,” he added.
China To Eclipse U.S.
A Fox News report – “China on ‘disturbing’ path to eclipse U.S. military by mid-century, Milley warns” (March 29, 2023) — said:
China is on a “disturbing” path to become militarily “superior” to the United States by mid-century, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley testified Wednesday, while warning that the United States probably would not be able to “stop, slow down, disrupt, interdict or destroy” China’s nuclear development program.
Milley testified Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a hearing dedicated to the fiscal year 2024 budget request for the Department of Defense.
The Fox News report said:
During the hearing, Milley stressed that the United States needs to “outpace” China’s development, specifically their military might.
“They have a national goal to be a global — to be the global — coequal with the United States and superior militarily by mid-century,” Milley said. “They are on that path to do that and that’s really disturbing. That is really bothersome.”
Milley added, “We are going to have to not only keep pace, but we have to outpace that, and that will assure the peace.”
The U.S. intelligence community assessed this month that Beijing is “accelerating” the development of key capabilities that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) needs to “confront the United States in a large-scale, sustained conflict.” The PLA’s efforts are designed to “deter U.S. intervention in a future cross-Strait crisis,” officials said.
On Wednesday, Milley also warned of China’s nuclear development program, which the intelligence community highlighted in its annual threat assessment earlier this month.
“We are probably not going to be able to do anything to stop slow down, disrupt, interdict or destroy the Chinese nuclear development program that they have projected out over the next 10 to 20 years,” Milley explained. “They are going to do that in accordance with their own plan.”
He added, “And there is very little leverage, I think, that we could do externally to prevent that from happening.”
The intelligence community warned that Beijing is bolstering its domestic defense production capabilities for weapons of mass destruction and advanced conventional weapons. The intelligence community also warned that China is building hundreds of new ICBM silos.
Milley said that even today, China has a “significant” nuclear capability.
“They have intercontinental ballistic missiles that can range the United States,” Milley said. “That is obviously bothersome.”
Milley warned of the growing alliance between China and Russia, and told lawmakers on Wednesday that the two countries are “getting closer together,” especially with regard to nuclear capabilities.
“That is troublesome,” Milley said. “And then, if you add in Iran as the third — those three countries together are going to be problematic for many years to come.”
As for China and Russia, Milley warned that the United States is currently facing “two nuclear-armed great powers.”
The intelligence community said this month that Russia maintains the “largest and most capable nuclear weapons stockpile, and it continues to expand and modernize its nuclear weapons capabilities.”
Russian nuclear material security also remains a concern to the United States, despite improvements to material protection, control, and accounting at Russia’s nuclear sites since the 1990s.
As for Iran, Milley said Tehran is “taking actions to improve its capabilities to produce a nuclear weapon.”
“From the time of an Iranian decision, Iran could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon in less than two weeks, and it would only take several more months to produce an actual nuclear weapon,” Milley warned.
China has been sending satellites into space which pose a change to security in space. A rocket carrying a satellite launches into space in the Sichuan Province of China.
“The United States remains committed as a matter of policy that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon,” he continued, adding that the United States military has “developed multiple options for our national leadership to consider, if or when Iran decides to develop a nuclear weapon.”
Milley’s testimony comes after the Pentagon made its largest-ever budget request for fiscal 2024 of $842 billion, a 3.2% increase from fiscal 2023.
The Pentagon cited the “seriousness” of the threats posed by Russia and China in its request and urged Congress to take action to approve the budget immediately, stating that delays pose a serious threat when facing an adversary like China.
The U.S. announcement comes just weeks after China announced its own military budget of $230 billion, up 7.6% from last year.