U.S. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro suggested to reporters Wednesday at the 2023 Surface Navy Association National Symposium in Arlington, Virginia, that the military may face a “challenging” decision within the next six months to either continue arming itself or aid Ukraine amid a weapon production shortage.
Del Toro’s remarks came after reporters asked him for a response to comments made at the conference by Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, who said that the Navy may be faced with a decision halfway through the year regarding whether it needs to arm itself or arm Ukraine.
“With regards to deliveries of weapons systems for the fight in Ukraine … yeah, that’s always a concern for us,” Del Toro said. “And we monitor that very, very closely.”
Del Toro later said on Twitter that he doesn’t believe the U.S. has reached that point yet, “but if the conflict does go on for another six months, for another year, it certainly continues to stress the supply chain in ways that are challenging.”
Del Toro joined dozens of military members, defense industry officials, and members of Congress at the conference held January 10 to 12, which focused on discussions about national defense and security, Newsweek reported.
Pentagon officials report that the United States has funded Ukraine with more than $24.2 billion in security assistance since the Russian invasion began on February 24, 2022.
Officials said that such aid had funded ammunition, vehicles, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, radar systems, small arms, artillery, air defense systems, anti-aircraft, and anti-armor systems.
Defense One reported most of the U.S. weapons sent to Ukraine came from Army stockpiles. However, U.S. officials said they would begin sending RIM-7 Sea Sparrow anti-air missiles to Ukraine, which come as part of a $2.85 billion presidential drawdown announced last week.
“The DOD and particularly [United States Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks] has been working very, very closely with industry, to motivate them to find out what their challenges or obstacles are, to be able to increase their own production rates,” Del Toro said.
The secretary noted that Hicks has worked alongside other officials who have started making progress.
“It’s obvious that these companies have a substantial pipeline for the future,” Del Toro wrote. “They now need to invest in their people, again, their workforce, as well as the capital investments that they have to make within their own companies to get their production rates up.”
“So when that occurs, we’ll be in a better place,” he added. “How long that takes varies often weapon system to weapon system.”
(1/5) To clarify earlier comments from the Secretary:
“If the conflict does go on for another six months to another year, it certainly continues to stress the supply chain in ways that are challenging.
— Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro (@SECNAV) January 11, 2023
During the conference, Adam. Caudle blamed weapons production delays on supply chain issues and labor shortages over the last three years caused by the pandemic, Defense One reported.
However, Caudle still accused weapon makers of using the pandemic as an excuse for missing deadlines to deliver more weapons.
“All this stuff about COVID this, parts, supply chain this, I just don’t really care,” Caudle said. “We’ve all got tough jobs.”
“We’re talking about war fighting and nation security and going against a competitor here and a potential adversary that is like nothing we’ve ever seen and we keep dilly dallying around with these deliveries,” the admiral added. “I don’t see good accountability and I don’t get to see good return on investment from the government [side], I really don’t.”
Pentagon officials said yesterday that approximately 100 Ukrainian soldiers would begin training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma on the Patriot Air Defense System as soon as next week amid ongoing aerial attacks from Russian forces.
Officials said the training with Ukrainian soldiers would last several months before delivering the Patriot system overseas.