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Biden Meets with Zelenskyy

President Biden met yesterday at the White House with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in the European leader’s first trip outside Ukraine since Russia invaded in February.

  • “All my appreciations from my heart, from the heart of Ukrainians, all Ukrainians, from our nation,” Zelenskyy said, referring to the assistance the U.S. has provided, according to CNN.
  • Just prior to the visit, the Biden administration announced nearly $2 billion in new funding to Ukraine, including an air defense system.

The bigger picture: If the U.S. wants to maintain optimal defense capabilities for itself and its allies, it must significantly bolster its weapons production capacity—and fast, according to an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal (subscription) by Stacie L. Pettyjohn and Hannah Dennis. (Pettyjohn is a senior fellow and director of the defense program at the Center for a New American Security, where Dennis is a research assistant.)

What’s going on: The U.S. military-weapons arsenal has been depleted by Russia’s war against Ukraine, as “Washington has sent more than $19 billion in security assistance to Kyiv since February, including thousands of long-range rockets and missiles and millions of shells from the Pentagon’s own supplies,” noted the writers.

  • The American military will need “many years” to rebuild the stocks of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles given to Ukraine because production of the weapons stopped almost two decades ago.
  • Manufacturer Raytheon restarted the line this year, but material shortages mean “large numbers of the shoulder-fired missiles won’t be available until late 2023 or 2024.”

Chips needed: The Biden administration has given Ukraine 8,500 Javelin anti-tank missiles—“essentially nine years’ worth … in nine months”—and while manufacturer Lockheed Martin plans to double production, it can’t do so quickly, “in large part because each missile requires more than 250 semiconductor chips, which are in short supply.”

  • Lockheed’s Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers face similar challenges.

Why it’s happening: “The Pentagon habitually slashes immediate buys [of critical munitions] to fund other priorities, pushing off munitions purchases for future years. The result is a shallow munitions store and a fragile industrial base, supported by brittle supply chains that plan for just-in-time delivery,” according to the writers.

What can be done: “Congress should authorize multiyear contracts for key munitions to build the resilient defense base needed to compete with Moscow and Beijing,” they recommend, arguing that this will cut costs and enable the investments needed to expand production capacity.

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