Bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate would grant the Pentagon wartime procurement powers, allowing it to use multiyear contracts to buy massive amounts of high-priority munitions to help Ukraine fight Russia and refill U.S. stockpiles.
The proposed legislation is an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill and was offered instead of the critical munitions acquisition fund sought by the Pentagon and some lawmakers but rejected by Senate appropriators.
The munitions programs most likely to see this approach would be ones the service is already buying at large scale and with hot production lines, Doug Bush, the Army’s acquisition chief, told reporters Monday.
Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or GMLRS, and Patriot missiles rise to the top of weapons systems produced in large volumes, he said. Additionally, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, launchers could be a candidate for a multiyear contract, Bush noted.
“That would be, for the Army, unusual, but this could be the circumstance where it’s a good idea, but we’re still working on that and anything we do would require specific congressional approval by both authorizers and appropriators,” he said.
Bush said Congress has been open to the Pentagon presenting the idea and the data to justify it.
“A great advantage of multiyear contracts is usually you save a lot of money, you stabilize the industrial base and you stabilize suppliers,” Bush told reporters in a Nov. 21 briefing. “The downside of multiyears is you don’t quite have as much flexibility year to year.”
Referring to his own experience as a staff member on the House Armed Services Committee, Bush said Congress has “been supportive of multiyear approaches as long as the numbers add up.”
“We will have to prove that in each individual case here to where the value of doing the multiyears is demonstrable in terms of cost savings and production stability,” he added. “I think we can do that on not everything, but there are certainly a few programs, maybe three or four for the Army … where a multiyear approach could have great benefits.”
Over the last month, the U.S. Army has awarded Lockheed Martin a deal worth $521 million to replenish U.S. stocks of GMLRS, which have been supplied to Ukraine to beat back Russia’s invasion.
Lockheed also received on Nov. 17 an Army contract worth $14.4 million to increase production capacity to rapidly replenish U.S. stocks of HIMARS after sending systems to Ukraine.
Lockheed is currently tooled to build 60 HIMARS launchers a year, but the contract, awarded in early October, will allow the company to ramp production up to 96 launchers per year, a company spokesperson told Defense News.
The company has made factory infrastructure investments and will be able to scale production within the same factory footprint, the spokesperson added.
In September, Ukraine announced its plan to buy 18 HIMARS, in addition to the 20 systems the U.S. has sent to the country.
Lockheed Martin also won a $179 million contract earlier this fall to replace HIMARS being sent to Ukraine, along with an order of GMLRS.
Last month, Bush told Defense News the Army is using multiple methods to accelerate contracts that will replenish supplies heading to Ukraine. As of October, the U.S. military has made roughly $3.4 billion in Ukraine-related contracting actions for arms and equipment.
Joe Gould and Bryant Harris contributed to this report.