Del Toro made the comments at the Surface Navy Association conference in Arlington, Virginia, when asked whether the Navy will soon have to choose between arming itself and helping to arm Ukraine amid its conflict with Russia, or whether it has already reached that point, according to Defense One.
“With regards to deliveries of weapons systems for the fight in Ukraine … Yeah, that’s always a concern for us. And we monitor that very, very closely,” Del Toro replied.
While the secretary noted that the Navy is not “quite there yet,” he added that if the conflict goes on for another six months or a year, “it certainly continues to stress the supply chain in ways that are challenging.”
The majority of U.S. weapons given to Ukraine are land and not naval weapons.
Del Toro told reporters that Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks has been working “very closely with [the defense] industry, to motivate them to find out what their challenges or obstacles are to be able to increase their own production rates.”
Companies Need to Bolster Weapons Production
“It’s obvious that … these companies have a substantial pipeline for the future,” Del Toro said. “They now need to invest in their workforce, as well as the capital investments that they had to make within their own companies to get their production up.”
Del Toro’s remarks came shortly after Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, also addressed the conference and accused defense companies of using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse for delaying weapons deliveries.
“I’m not as forgiving of the defense industrial base. I’m just not,” he said. “I am not forgiving of the fact that you’re not delivering the ordnance we need. All this stuff about COVID this, parts, supply chain this, I just don’t really care. We’ve all got tough jobs.”
“I need SM-6s delivered on time. I need more Mark 48 torpedoes delivered on time. OK, we’re talking about war fighting, national security, and going against a competitor here and a potential adversary that is like nothing we’ve ever seen. And we can’t [be] dilly-dallying around with these deliveries,” Caudle added.
To date, the Biden administration has authorized over $110 billion in aid—via American taxpayer money—to Ukraine amid its ongoing conflict with neighboring Russia.
Of that $110 billion, $45 billion came from the $1.7 trillion spending omnibus bill signed by President Joe Biden on Dec. 29 and aimed at keeping the government running until the fiscal year ends in September 2023.
Earlier in December, Biden announced that Washington was sending $1.8 billion in additional military aid to Ukraine, including a Patriot surface-to-air guided-missile defense system.
Republicans Raise Concerns Over Ukraine Aid
Around 100 Ukrainian troops are set to arrive in the United States next week to undergo training on how to use the air defense system, which can target aircraft, cruise missiles, and short-range ballistic missiles.
On Friday, the White House announced that the United States will send $3.75 billion in military weapons and other aid, including Bradley armored vehicles, to Ukraine and its neighbors on NATO’s eastern flank.
The funding—the biggest U.S. assistance package to date for Kyiv—includes $225 million in foreign military financing and directs the Department of Defense to draw down from its stockpiles $2.85 billion in military equipment.
It also includes $682 million in foreign military financing to allies in Europe to help incentivize and backfill donations of military equipment they’ve made to Ukraine.
“The war is at a critical point and we must do everything we can to help the Ukrainians resist Russian aggression,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in announcing the latest round of financial aid.
Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), have taken aim at the Biden administration for authorizing the billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine at a time when Americans are buckling under the weight of soaring inflation.
“$100 billion to Ukraine. Let’s put that in perspective. That’s more than $200 million this year from each Congressional district,” Massie said in a Dec. 21 Twitter post. “What could your congressman have done for your district with $200 million? How long will the kids in your district be paying interest on this debt?”