Top Navy leaders are sounding the alarm over what they see as the defense industry's failure to deliver enough ammunition to both meet the demands of the sea service as well as aid shipments to Ukraine.
"I am not forgiving of the fact they're not delivering the ordnance we need," Adm. Daryl Caudle, the service's Fleet Forces commander, told an audience at the annual Surface Navy Association conference held in Arlington, Virginia.
Caudle, who oversees a wide swath of the Navy's ships, suggested that the problem is not only forcing him to "rob Peter to pay Paul" in order to completely arm U.S. carrier strike groups, but that it is a factor in how much aid to send to Ukraine.
The service's top boss, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, echoed the sentiment in a conversation with reporters at the same conference and explained that the shortfalls are "always a concern for us and we monitor that very, very closely."
Del Toro said that the Navy is not "quite there yet," referring to the decision point between arming itself or Ukraine, "but if the conflict does go on for another six months or another year, it certainly continues to stress the supply chain in ways that are challenging."
The comments come as some far-right lawmakers who have been pushing for Congress to cut off aid are now in a position to influence Ukraine policy, with Republicans having just taken over the majority in the House. The risk to Ukraine aid seemingly escalated after newly minted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in October he would not support a "blank check" for the country.
The Navy officials' comments could give the opponents of Ukraine aid a national security justification for slowing the flow of weapons.
In his remarks, Caudle specifically singled out two weapons -- the Navy's SM-6 missile and the Mark 48 torpedo. The former is an extended-range version of the Navy's workhorse surface-to-air missile, and the latter is a torpedo that is used on submarines.
"We're talking about warfighting, national security, and going against a competitor here and a potential adversary that is like nothing we've ever seen, and we keep dillydallying around with these deliveries," Caudle said.
Neither Caudle nor Del Toro went into detail about just how depleted the Navy's ammunition reserves actually are, but the admiral did say that it was not enough to meet the service's new requirement that it be able to sail 75 ships at the same time, a number that was recently announced by Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener.
"If I wanted to do that, their magazines wouldn't all be full," Caudle said. "So even though Roy Kitchener is doing a great job getting that ship ready, it won't go fully loaded out."
Caudle acknowledged that manufacturers are still recovering from supply chain disruptions and issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, though he did not view that as an excuse.
"I just don't really care. … We all got tough jobs," he said. "If you want to take me in a room and show me your sob story, I'll be happy to hear it. … At the end of the day, I want the magazines filled."
Meanwhile, Del Toro, who told reporters that he's "been really tough on the industry," said that, given the improvements made in the fight against COVID-19, "industry needs to make sure that they continue to … incentivize … their workers in every possible way ... to make up for that lost time."
"There's a lot of work to be done on the part of industry to reinvest perhaps some of their own profits," Del Toro said.
Editor's Note: After publication a spokesperson for Adm. Daryl Caudle sent a statement to Military.com, part of which read:
"Yesterday at the 35th gathering of the Surface Navy Association, U.S. Fleet Forces commander, Admiral Daryl Caudle, commented on supply line delays of ordnance from America’s defense industry. At no point did Admiral Caudle say our nation would need to make a choice between arming our Navy OR supporting Ukrainian forces in their fight against Russia."
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.