Chief weapons-buyer nominee says US needs more weapon factories
The weapons-driven nominee expresses how he believes deliveries of arms and lethal equipment to Ukraine should be sped up.
President Biden's candidate to be the Pentagon's top weapons buyer told Congress Tuesday that the US needs more production lines that can churn out missiles, bombs, and drones.
The Senate confirmation hearing for Bill LaPlante happened as the US military exhausts its stocks of Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to arm Ukraine.
On February 28, Biden nominated LaPlante, CEO of the non-profit Draper Labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to be the military undersecretary for procurement and sustainment. Since President Biden took office on January 20, 2021, the position has been without a Senate-confirmed leader.
LaPlante said he believed the US needs "multiple hot production lines," adding that they alone are a "deterrent", and much of that focus needs to be implemented "across the board."
The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. James Inhofe, asked LaPlante if the US should make one-time investments in 2022 to expand production of key munitions, to which the nominee responded, "Yes, we do."
According to Inhofe, “We're sending thousands of Stingers to Ukraine and we don't even have a hot production line."
LaPlante revealed, “If confirmed, one of my first things to do on day one would be [to] accelerate all equipment and capabilities to both the Ukrainians … and also helping our NATO partners and replenish our stockpiles."
Thousands of the simple-to-use Javelins and Stingers have been delivered to Ukraine by the US military. However, only the Javelin is in serial production in the US, through a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies.
The US has already sent $1 billion of military aid to Ukraine.
The US has been a main contributor of lethal arms to Ukraine, arming the country as early as December.
According to a declassified accounting of transfers and sales examined by The Washington Post, the United States significantly increased its supply of lethal military aid to Ukraine as the potential of an escalation with Russia drew closer.
When there are orders or expected orders, companies often keep manufacturing lines operating. It's unusual for a business to continue manufacturing a weapon in the absence of pre-booked orders. A significant example was when Boeing produced C-17 freight aircraft without orders in the hope of eventually selling them.