The U.S. Military Supply Chain Is Ready For Peace, But Not War
Recent shocks in the defense supply chain have shown a surprisingly functional system that nevertheless can’t adapt quickly or forecast its own shortfalls.
The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has created immense strain on U.S. weapons stockpiles due to the unexpected spike in demand for military aid. Around a third of Javelin missile stockpiles and a quarter of Stinger missile stockpiles have been sent to Ukraine as U.S. military aid. Raytheon, which manufactures the missile jointly with Lockheed Martin, admitted that while they were trying to increase production, stockpiles would not be replenished for at least a year due to parts shortages.1 This is not the first shock to the U.S. military supply chain in recent years. A report on the health of the defense industrial base through 2021 revealed that productive capacity and surge readiness had taken a big hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.2 The combination of lockdowns and government stimulus caused demand to rebound faster than suppliers had anticipated. Then, cascading problems throughout the supply chain followed: shipping hubs became clogged, shortages in semiconductors occurred, and commodity prices skyrocketed. Now, with new lockdowns in China disrupting manufacturing and the war in Ukraine cutting off crucial natural resources such as titanium, neon, and wheat, these problems are only growing worse. The combined effect of spiking demand, new disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine, and the sanctions on Russia, is a test case for the functionality of the U.S. defense supply chain.