Procurement: A Billion Bullets From the East


November 9, 2007: In the last two years, the United States has purchased over a billion rounds of 5.56mm ammo from Taiwan. Before September 11, 2001, the U.S. Department of Defense bought 350 million rounds of 5.56mm, 7.62mm and 12.7mm of ammo a year. Most of this was 5.56mm, for M-16s, M-4s and light machine-guns. By 2004, that was up to 1.2 billion rounds. This increased to 1.5 billion rounds in 2005 and is now close to two billion rounds a year.

The U.S. Army has one very large ammo factory at the Alliant Lake City plant in Independence, Missouri. This plant can normally only produce 1.2 billion rounds a year, although that has since been expanded to 1.5 billion rounds a year.

Additional ammo has been obtained by, first, drawing down war reserve stocks. Taking over half a billion rounds from those stocks, plus buying even more from civilian manufacturers (in the United States, Canada, Taiwan and Israel), working round the clock, and putting mothballed production facilities to work, has kept the troops supplied. The current high production levels will remain until the war reserve stocks are rebuilt. In the meantime, training will continue to use more ammo than in the past. In the 1990s, use of live ammo in training had been allowed to decline. That has been stopped. Ammo usage in training will remain at high levels even after American troops leave Afghanistan and Iraq, at least until the lessons learned this time around are forgotten.


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