Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown, nominee to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited the new multi-year procurement authority as critical to ensuring the Pentagon is able to meet its munitions stockpile requirements.

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee pressed Brown, the current Air Force chief of staff, on his assessment of the state of munitions industrial base during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. at a briefing by 325th Fighter Wing leaders during his visit to Tyndall AFB, Fla., on May 19. The Air Force said that Brown highlighted the strategic importance of Tyndall AFB’s transition from an F-22 Raptor training mission to a combat-coded F-35A Lightning II mission (U.S. Air Force Photo)

“One of the areas I would highlight is that, for all the services, in this year’s budget submission we asked for multi-year procurement. And that multi-year procurement was designed to help increase our stocks. But what it also does for us is help provide predictability to the defense industrial base, to their supply chains and to their workforce,” Brown said.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), in particular, asked Brown about how the department can best utilize multi-year procurement authority and said she is “deeply concerned” about the current capacity for munitions production.

“Frankly, after years of under-investing in munitions production, we now find ourselves, I think, in a very precarious position. While this committee has generally been supportive of providing aid and transferring excess munitions from our stockpiles, we also have a clear expectation that the department will work with us to ensure that we produce more munitions, as many as we can and as fast as we can, to backfill our stockpiles, increase our margins and support our allies and partners,” Fischer said. 

The current National Defense Authorization Act included a provision allowing multi-year contracts, typically utilized for large platforms such as ships and helicopters, to buy select critical munitions, with the services seeking appropriators approval to pursue such plans in fiscal year 2024.

The Air Force’s FY ‘24 budget request sought multi-year procurements for the Lockheed Martin [LMT] AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) and Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) and the RTX’s [RTX] AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), which Brown has previously said “is just a start” (Defense Daily, June 7). 

“The multi-year procurement [request] was to make sure that we not only had the munitions that we were going to but also the facilities as well as the workforce and the supply chain. That’s the value of having these multi-years,” Brown said on Tuesday. “It’s about building capacity. It’s about buying down risk in the future.”

House appropriators, however, included a nearly $2 billion cut to multi-year munitions procurement in its $826.5 billion FY ‘24 defense spending bill approved last month (Defense Daily, June 22).

“In many cases, reductions were made because the department failed to justify the request. One example is the department’s request for economic order quantities for certain munitions tied to multi-year procurement,” Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), chair of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said during the panel’s markup at the time. “Because of the poor justification, other urgent unfunded needs, and sufficient enduring support for the munitions industrial base, the bill does not fund this request.”

HAC’s bill does grant funding for five multi-year munitions procurements to include Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile, Lockheed Martin’s GMLRS rocket and PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhanced interceptors as well as the Air Force’s LRASM and JASSM, but not AMRAAM and the Navy’s request for RTX’s SM-6 missile (Defense Daily, June 23). 

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) also asked Brown if he believed the war in Ukraine and supplying large numbers of munitions to assist against Russia’s invasion has caused the challenges to the munitions industrial base or whether it exposed fragilities that were already in place. 

Brown responded he believed it exposed existing vulnerabilities, noting discussions around munitions industrial base challenges have come up during previous situations while the conflict in Ukraine is “highlighting it even more so.”

“I think you and the department have convinced the authorizers on this point. I think maybe the appropriators still need some convincing,” Cotton said after the response, in reference to Brown’s view on the importance of multi-year procurement authority.