Ukrainian soldiers train at the front with US-made weapons in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on March 4, 2023.

Ukrainian soldiers train at the front with US-made weapons in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on March 4, 2023. Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Pentagon Creates Cell to Oversee Expansion of Weapon Production Lines

The move comes as the military looks to increasingly bulk buy munitions.

The Pentagon has created a new cell within its acquisition office to oversee the expansion of weapon production lines amid a growing need to replenish munition stockpiles given to Ukraine.

The organization, called the Joint Production Accelerator Cell, has been tasked with “building enduring industrial production capacity, resiliency, and surge capability for key defense weapon systems and supplies,” according to a March 10 memo establishing the office from Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante. Erin Simpson has been named executive director of the cell. 

The so-called JPAC will aim to institutionalize earlier efforts by LaPlante’s office to boost munitions production, but also work to do the same with other types of weapons.

“The JPAC will focus on developing actionable recommendations to build production capacity for a specific set of weapons systems. These systems may evolve with the threat environment, and will be selected by USD(A&S) based on periodic deliberative processes with senior Department leaders,” LaPlante wrote.

The Ukrainian military’s demand for munitions to fend off invading Russian forces has illuminated supply chain and manufacturing limitations that prevent companies from quickly building new weapons. 

The U.S. military shifted to a “just in time” mindset for weapons manufacturing at the end of the Cold War, LaPlante said Wednesday at the McAleese and Associates Defense Programs conference in Washington.

“Complex production lines simply can't be turned on or off based on the requirements of the day,” he said. “And of course, the same applies to the workforce.”

Companies have wanted the Pentagon to send a “clear, consistent demand signal” before making investments to expand weapon production lines,” LaPlante said.

Defense officials have taken several steps over the past year to speed up weapons production. The Pentagon’s fiscal 2024 budget proposal, sent to Congress earlier this week, requests funding for some of those efforts, including buying several key weapons in bulk. In all, the Pentagon requested $30.6 billion for munitions.

“We cannot stop managing this once fighting in Ukraine ends—we need to change,” LaPlante said. “So to ensure we pace the threat posed by China throughout the Indo-Pacific, we cannot return to the feast or famine behavior which is typically employed as the crisis comes and goes.”