President Joe Biden traveled to the Troy, Ala., Lockheed Martin production facility for Javelin anti-tank weapons to highlight that weapon’s role in helping Ukrainian soldiers push back Russia on the battlefield. Biden is calling for passage of a $33 billion supplemental bill that would begin to replenish American stocks.
“We’re at an inflection point in history,” said Biden, after describing how American firepower defended European democracy during World War II and is now keeping American troops out of another world war. “There’s an ongoing battle in the world between autocracy and democracy.”
Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping are bent on changing the world order by force. He called the Russia-Ukraine war “the first real battle … to determine whether that’s going to happen.”
“We built the weapons and equipment and helped defend freedom and sovereignty in Europe years ago. That’s true again today,” the President said.
The United States has already given Ukraine $3.7 billion in assistance since the start of the conflict, including more than 5,500 of the Javelin missiles. But legislators are now worried that American stocks will be depleted and that the U.S.’s ability to defend the homeland may be in danger.
“Our cupboards will be bare,” said Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in a statement calling for use of the Defense Production Act, or DPA, to increase the amount and shipment of arms to Ukraine.
“Our latest surge of weapons to Ukraine marks a major challenge to manufacturers,” he said. “America is rapidly depleting its inventories of key arms—needing urgent restocking.”
Blumenthal said one-third of American Javelin missiles have been given to Ukraine, noting that the DPA is needed because at current capacity, producing 1,000 Javelin missiles takes a year.
Biden made only passing reference in Alabama to the potential problem when he called on Congress to pass a $33 billion supplemental budget that would support defensive, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine for approximately five months and begin to replenish American stocks.
“I urge the Congress to pass this funding quickly to help Ukraine continue to succeed against Russian aggression, just as they did when they won the battle of Kyiv, and to make sure the United States and our allies can replenish our own stocks of weapons, to replace what we’ve sent to Ukraine,” he said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, in congressional testimony May 3, said it is possible for the U.S. to replace its stocks within a year with the supplemental funds requested.
“It’s not only possible, but we will do that,” Austin said in response to a question from Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) at a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing.
“We will always maintain the capability to defend this country and to support our interest,” Austin added.
At his April 26 meeting with more than 40 allies and partners at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Austin spoke with defense ministers from countries giving assistance to Ukraine that do not have large stockpiles of reserves like the United States. Eastern flank NATO defense officials have expressed to Air Force Magazine their concern about giving from their limited stocks. In some cases, the U.S. is believed to have provided assurances to those nations, or facilitated additional protection, such as the temporary deployment of Patriot missile systems to Poland.
“This will help us to not only replenish our stockpiles, but also replace some of the capability that we’ve asked our partners and allies to provide,” Austin said.
In a May 2 Pentagon press briefing, Press Secretary John F. Kirby said the depleting stockpiles are not impacting American readiness.
“With every drawdown package, we make an assessment about the impact on our readiness,” Kirby said. “We can assure the American people that we are more than capable of continuing to defend the homeland, and we look at this with every single package.”
Kirby said that in recent weeks, Austin met with defense production CEOs to talk about production lines and that an entire session at Ramstein was devoted to the defense industrial base across the nations providing assistance to Ukraine.
“We have not seen any negative impact on our ability to defend this nation across a range of military capabilities,” Kirby said. “That is not something we take lightly.”