The ousting of Kevin McCarthy last week as Speaker of the US House of Representatives, along with that event’s immediate predecessor, 100 congressional Republicans’ vote to withhold US$300 million in military assistance to Ukraine, is self-destructive.
Unless reversed, it will stop the US from making sorely needed improvements in its ability to produce more arms more quickly.
Leaving aside the immense global consequences of abandoning Ukraine, American leaders who waver in supporting Ukraine overlook how increased supply demands of a major war revitalize the US defense industrial base.
As great-power competition deepens, the US is ever more in need of a robust defense industry and institutions that can adopt innovations and sustain high-intensity warfare. Yet the US defense base is ill-prepared to meet increasing challenges after three decades of underinvestment, while bureaucratic structures at the Pentagon are often too outdated to adapt at the speed demanded to succeed on a contemporary battlefield.
Continued US military support for Ukraine provides the necessary shake-up of defense institutions. By reviving America’s aging defense base and requiring the Pentagon to rethink its stultified ways of buying vital equipment, continued US support for Ukraine offers a dividend that prepares the US for future wars.
Before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, American production of 155mm artillery rounds – the most commonly used caliber in the US artillery arsenal – was only 14,000 units per month. To put this number into perspective, the Ukrainian counteroffensive consumes up to 6,000 rounds per day (around 183,000 units per month).
The Ukrainian military says that it needs 10,000 rounds per day to defeat the enemy. Russia fired its artillery at the staggering rate of 60,000 shells per day (1,830,000 units per month) at the peak of its barrages in 2023.
To satisfy the larger-than-expected Ukrainian need for artillery munitions, the US has doubled its output to 24,000 155mm shells per month as of August. The Pentagon plans to reach the target of 1 million rounds per year (around 83,000 units per month) by autumn 2025.
This increased capacity is there to stay even when the war in Ukraine ends. The US Army invested about $2 billion to expand the output of artillery munitions in the US. The construction of new production lines and modernization of old ones in factories like Pennsylvania’s Scranton Army Munitions Plant will revive the US ability to produce enough munition to sustain future long, high-intensity wars waged by itself or its partners.
Beyond the 155mm artillery, the war in Ukraine has led Lockheed Martin to invest in doubling the production of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) from 48 to 90 units per year in its factory in Camden, Arkansas. The plant plans to hire 20% more workers over the next several years to expand the production of weapons for Ukraine.
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Seth Cropsey is the founder and president of Yorktown Institute.
Oleksiy Antonyuk is a research assisstant at Yorktown Institute. He studies economics at Yale University.