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Ammunition Readiness: Current Problems and Future Implications for Army Transformation

February 8, 2002

As with any organization financed by the dollars of the U.S. taxpayer, the Army is forced to make tough decisions on how to spend its available funds. As a result, some programs have enjoyed full funding while others are forced to make do with fewer resources. One area that has long suffered underfunding is ammunition readiness. Ammunition has traditionally served as a bill payer for other Army programs. Recent studies—conducted by the Army, the U.S. government and outside consultants— have concluded that, as a result of this underfunding:

The Army is woefully short of the state-of-the-art ammunition needed to perform and sustain its warfighting duties at peak efficiency.

• Training ammunition, while meeting requirements in the budget execution year, is underfunded in the out years of the Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP).

• Current funding is inadequate to maintain effective readiness or modernize the stockpile.

• The ammunition production base is suffering. Funding is marginal, and the Army cannot make up preferred munitions shortfalls during a major conflict. Replenishment is longer than three years for many critical/preferred munitions. The United States has essentially no surge capability.

• Precision munitions are not being procured in sufficient quantities to meet the Army Vision. Current engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) funding does not support increased precision for the Interim Force and only marginally supports the Objective Force.

• The Army needs to centralize, streamline and modernize its ammunition program in order to best perform its duties as the Single Manager for Conventional Ammunition (SMCA) as well as to maintain sufficient working stocks of Army-only munitions.

These problems must be addressed now, as the U.S. forces participating in Operation Enduring Freedom wage war on the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. While currently limited in scope, these operations could quickly expand if and when the political leadership decides to take the war on terrorism beyond Afghanistan’s borders. Even if they do not, these problems must be corrected now to ensure that the Army of tomorrow will have the ammunition it needs to fulfill its missions.

While these problems can be attributed to a variety of causes—the post-Cold War force reduction, slow-to-respond budgeting and acquisition programs—a common thread is money. As noted above, ammunition has traditionally served as a bill payer for other Army programs. As a result, there is a funding shortfall of an estimated $6–9 billion over the next six years.1 Were the Army able simply to shift funds from one account to another, this shortfall could easily be made up. There are, however, no funds available to shift. The Army is currently undergoing its most dynamic transformation in the past fifty years, from the Legacy Force to the Objective Force. This transformation entails the development of entirely new weapon platforms, communication networks, force structures and training programs, all of which require large amounts of resources. This investment in the future fighting force, combined with continued investment in the fighting force of today, puts a severe strain on the Army budget. What is needed, then, to redress these ammunition readiness issues is additional top-line budget authority for the Army.