Bush: Munitions industrial base improvements are 'vitally important'

By Evan Ochsner / November 17, 2022

The Army's acquisition executive on Wednesday added to a growing chorus of senior government officials calling to modernize the service's ability to make munitions, continuing to highlight an issue that has increased in relevance as the Pentagon has shipped weapons to Ukraine.

“Everybody forgets about producing ammunition until there is a conflict,” said Doug Bush, the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology. “We need much more modern ways to do it.”

Bush said modernizing the munitions industrial base is “vitally important” for the service, naming the topic as a priority on multiple occasions during remarks made at an event in Texas hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

“This is an area where we are getting a lot of funding support from Congress -- it’s very much appreciated -- to dramatically increase our domestic production of artillery shells and the things that go with it, fuses, charges and primers, to support Ukraine and replenish our own stocks and those of our allies,” he said.

Bush’s call to modernize comes during a period of increased scrutiny on the munitions industrial base, as the Pentagon’s shipments of weapons like Javelin and Stinger have left some lawmakers and industry representatives concerned about the service’s ability to ramp up production and replenish existing stocks. Army leaders have highlighted the munitions industrial base as a top concern.

On Wednesday, Bush suggested the greatest needs for munitions manufacturing modernization are in the areas of propellants and explosives production, which he said are currently outdated processes that could be made safer for workers.

“They are working in sometimes very difficult conditions where they’re having to do things by hand that would surprise most Americans,” he said. “We should be able to automate this stuff and make it more efficient and more scalable and more flexible.”

The Army’s industrial base for short-range air defense missiles drew the attention of a House panel earlier this year, which asked the Army to provide a report on the SHORAD industrial base by the end of January next year. The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee’s mark of the annual defense policy bill said the panel was concerned about the Army’s ability to produce SHORAD systems.

“Recent activities in Ukraine have increased demand for ground-launched, short-range air defense munitions, and ongoing risk of conflict with major state actors raises questions about capacity risk associated with our current stockpiles of anti-air and anti-tank capability,” the mark stated.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in April that a Ukraine aid package should include a new "Critical Munitions Acquisition Fund" to help surge production of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons now and in the future, although the proposal received pushback from Congress.

Meanwhile, the Army last month agreed to revise its governing documents that concern the procurement and production of ammunition, following an audit by the Government Accountability Office that found the guidance was out of date by 18 years.