Army is 'underestimating' risk in small arms industrial base, House panel warns

By Evan Ochsner / June 10, 2022 at 11:21 AM

A House panel wants the Army to provide a briefing to the House Armed Services Committee on the small arms industrial base because the service's current procurement strategy leaves its manufacturing capabilities at risk, according to a provision suggested for the annual defense policy bill.

At issue is the drawdown in production of the M240 medium machine gun after the Army didn’t request any money to procure the weapon in fiscal year 2023. The Army is underestimating the problems that could create for its ability to produce small arms, according to a provision in the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee’s mark of the annual defense authorization bill.

The Army has achieved the procurement objective for the M240, and the current acquisition and sustainment strategies rely on replacement of individual parts instead of new production, according to the provision.

The subcommittee said that strategy could lead to a decrease in the Army’s ability to produce a weapon that provides a vital capability for the U.S. and its allies: “The committee is concerned about the impact of this strategy on the industrial base and the potential risk of eliminating a production line that would be difficult and costly to reestablish at a later date.”

The briefing provided by the Army, before Dec. 23, should include information about the state of the small arms industrial base and “the impacts to the small arms industrial base of shuttering legacy production lines such as the M240.”

It should also include information about mitigating the issue, like potential future requirements for the M240, including foreign military sales and replacing existing M240B machine guns with the improved M240L models.

“The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has highlighted both the need for active production lines for critical equipment as well as the risks associated with not having them when unforeseen events arise,” the provision states. “The committee is concerned that the resulting small arms industrial base will lack the capacity and capability necessary to support current and future Department of Defense and allied requirements.”