The U.S.’ lead representative to NATO said Tuesday addressing member nations’ declining stockpiles of weapons and munitions sent to Ukraine is a “very serious challenge.”

Julianne Smith, the U.S.’ ambassador to NATO, cited separate efforts from the alliance, the European Union and the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group that are aimed at ensuring the industrial capacity is in place to meet increased production demands for critical munitions.

Ambassador Julianne Smith, U.S. permanent representative to NATO, learns about a M119 howitzer from U.S. Army Soldiers at Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base, Romania, July 11, 2022. Ambassador Smith met with U.S. forces under V Corps and NATO allies to get a better understanding of U.S. strategic efforts and contribution in the European theater. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elizabeth MacPherson)

“This is a very serious challenge, both for NATO allies that are giving serious commitment, significant military assistance, lethal assistance to the Ukrainian military forces. But it is a significant challenge for the Ukrainian military forces themselves that are facing shortfalls and declining stockpiles,” Smith said during a Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion. “The hope is that in the months ahead these institutions, the EU and NATO, and the group of countries meeting in the [Ukraine Defense] Contact Group can work with industry to ensure that they have the confidence to up production and increase production as soon as humanly possible.”

Smith noted NATO has convened the armaments directors from each of its 30 member nations to discuss the state of stockpiles of weapons sent to assist Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s ongoing invasion.

“They meet with industry. They’re also trying to look at things like multinational buys, pooled purchases,” Smith said. “All of those ideas are back in the mix because you want to send industry the strongest signal possible so, again, they have the confidence that when they turn one of these production lines back on there’ll be sustained interest.”

As the EU has started its own efforts to assess member states’ stockpile concerns, Smith said there is opportunity to collaborate with NATO to bolster initiatives for increasing industry’s production capacity. 

“The key here is to find some connective tissue and make sure that the EU and NATO are talking to each other in some of these efforts and not sending mixed signals to industry,” Smith said. 

On the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which helps coordinate security assistance efforts for Ukraine among 50 participating nations, Smith said it’s also “beginning to look at the question of declining stockpiles inside Ukraine.”

“They’re bringing in industry and trying to determine how they can send the right signals to industry to give them the assurance they need to reopen production lines,” Smith said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last month detailed new security efforts announced during the Ukraine Defense Contact Group’s seventh meeting, to include further bolstering Kyiv’s air defense capabilities as its war against Russia’s invasion heads into the winter months (Defense Daily, Nov. 16). 

The final version of the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which the House passed last week, includes a provision that would allow the Pentagon to buy select critical munitions using multi-year contracts (Defense Daily, Dec. 8). 

More specifically, the provision would allow the Pentagon to use multi-year details for 155mm rounds, AGM-179 Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles, HIMARS launchers, ATACMS missiles, GMLRS rockets, Naval Strike Missiles, PAC-3 MSEs, Stingers, Javelins, AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, SM-6 missiles and AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles.

Bill LaPlante, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, has cited multi-year contracts as an option to ensure supply chain stability in the future as the department looks to refill its inventories of what’s been supplied in larger numbers to Ukraine (Defense Daily, Sept. 7).