Bill LaPlante, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, said that he expects Congress to grant the authority to allow wartime purchasing power at a level not seen since the Cold War, Defense News reported on Monday.
To continue arming Ukraine, LaPlante has been calling for the Pentagon to be granted the authority to lock in multiyear contracts for weapons purchases, which are typically reserved for procuring naval vessels and warplanes. The idea is to get arms makers the incentive to ramp up production.
The Senate has added an amendment to its version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act to grant the authority. It would allow the Pentagon to make multiyear purchases through 2023 and 2024 of certain arms made by Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, and Raytheon, the former employer of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
The Senate is expected to vote on its version of the NDAA sometime this month, and it will then negotiate the final version of the spending bill with the House. LaPlante expects the wartime purchasing powers to make it into the finalized version that will reach President Biden’s desk.
“They are supportive of this. They’re going to give us multiyear authority, and they’re going to give us funding to really put into the industrial base ― and I’m talking billions of dollars into the industrial base ― to fund these production lines,” LaPlante said on Friday.
“That, I predict, is going to happen, and it’s happening now. And then people will have to say: ‘I guess they were serious about it.’ But we have not done that since the Cold War,” he added.
When the NDAA amendment was first reported, a senior congressional aide told Defense News that the authority could also be used to prepare for war with China. “We can’t pussyfoot around with minimum-sustaining-rate buys of these munitions. It’s hard to think of something as high on everybody’s list as buying a ton of munitions for the next few years, for our operational plans against China and continuing to supply Ukraine,” the aide said.
The Senate’s NDAA also includes $10 billion in military aid for Taiwan that will be disbursed over the next five years. While the number still needs to be finalized in negotiations with the House, there is strong bipartisan support for arming Taiwan, which will ensure tensions with China will continue to rise.