When Russia invaded Ukraine, the U.S. stepped in with massive military assistance immediately. But you might be surprised to hear about other countries that have bought and paid for U.S. military weaponry and are in limbo on delivery. Scott Thuman reports.
To many, this is the sound of success. Outmatched and outmanned, Ukraine needed help in securing the right kind of weapons to repel Russian advances. And the U.S. provided, making the difference between a quick Russian victory and a fair fight now stretching into its ninth month.
Biden: The United States is leading our allies and partners around the world to make sure the courageous Ukrainians who are fighting for the future of the nation have the weapons and the capacity and ammunition and equipment to defend themselves against Putin’s brutal war.
But that’s not always the case. In fact, it may be the exception to the rule.
Rep. McCaul: That's the thing. In Washington, everybody knows this. It's like a dirty little secret, right? Everybody knows it's happening, but no one really talks about it.
Congressman Mike McCaul is the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. McCaul: We cannot manufacture and produce weapon systems fast enough, and we have a major backlog. And there are many reasons for this, but it does pose a national security issue.
He says Washington, D.C. has been big on promises and weak on results, selling hundreds of billions-worth of weapons to friendly nations, then often failing to deliver.
Rep. McCaul: Good example: Taiwan. In my position on the Foreign Affairs Committee, I sign off on all foreign military sales. So I signed off on these weapons systems three years ago — dating back three years ago — to Taiwan. You know, deterrence is key, right? Now it's been three years and we haven't delivered one of these weapon systems into Taiwan. So when I see the ambassador from Taiwan, and they're very worried about the current threat from Chinese Communist Party invading — particularly after what Putin did in Ukraine and their alliance — I have to tell her that we can't deliver. And, you know, that comes at a price. And it hurts our diplomacy efforts. But it also, it hurts our deterrence against these major foreign nation adversaries like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea.
Earlier this year, the online publication DefenseNews published a list of backlogged weapons deliveries, including Taiwan's $8 billion purchase of 66 F-16 fighter jets, as well as $620 million in replacement parts for its Patriot Missile system.
Scott: What does that feel like when they're saying, "We signed papers three years ago for these weapons; where are they?"
Rep. McCaul: You feel you got one hand tied behind your back, you know? You feel impotent, in a way, because you can't deliver on sales that you promised them. Remember, in Taiwan, they actually have purchased these weapons. It's not like we're giving them. They have purchased these weapons, and the backlog goes back three years. I participated in a tabletop exercise with the Pentagon in a classified space, not to get into details, but the fact is, if we can't provide them the weapons necessary to deter Chairman Xi from invading, it makes the chances of him doing that more likely.
McCaul has written a bill that would force the government to detail how many deals, to how many countries, are unfulfilled — sometimes because ramping up production of weapons takes time, and supply chain issues don’t help.
Scott: You questioned Secretary of State's Antony Blinken about this.
McCaul (April 28): Maybe it would be helpful if we got State and DOD and the contractors in the same room together to find out, how can we fix this broken system?
Blinken (April 28) First, just quickly on Taiwan, I welcome working with you and other members on this to make sure that we can streamline the timelines, to make sure they are getting what they need to defend themselves.
Scott: Were you happy with the response you got?
Rep. McCaul: Not really. He almost deferred to the Department of Defense, like "that's not really my issue." But it is, because if we can't get these weapons systems into our allies, into places like Taiwan, into the eastern flank of NATO, it is a State Department failure. It's a failure in diplomacy.
Creating, he worries, an even deeper concern that if friendly nations can’t wait for U.S. hardware, they could turn to other countries, forging new relations with America’s competition.
Sharyl: So, do we, meaning the U.S., have the weapons that we need?
Scott: Well that’s the big question. The U.S. government has put in a large order for new weapons in the last few months. We’re talking about $352 million in Javelin missiles and another $624 million worth of Stinger missiles. In September, Congress appropriated $1.5 billion to help replenish the stockpile. Keep in mind, $15 billion worth of weapons went to Ukraine, so you've got to make up that ground. But analysts say it could take years to rebuild the inventories.
Sharyl: Interesting. Good report, thanks Scott.