Top US military chief visits munitions plants with lawmakers to press the need to arm Ukraine


WASHINGTON (AP) — Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. CQ Brown is visiting U.S. weapon factories in Oklahoma and Arkansas on Thursday as the Pentagon frames the $95 billion aid package hanging in the balance on Capitol Hill as not only vital to Ukraine’s survival but also critical to the U.S. economy.

Brown is visiting Lockheed Martin’s Camden, Arkansas, weapon facility and the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester, Oklahoma, with the lawmakers who represent those factory workforces to address concerns over billions of dollars being sent overseas when there are so many needs at home. Some of those lawmakers have either already voted against the aid or have indicated they will oppose it.

The general is scheduled to travel with Arkansas Republican Sen. John Boozman, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Markwayne Mullin and Arkansas Republican Rep. Brad Westerman and then meet with Oklahoma Republican Rep. Josh Breechen while at McAlester.

Brown said he’ll use the trip to point out how the funding is needed to replenish U.S. military stockpiles that have been sent forward to Ukraine during its fight against Russia’s invasion and how that increased production supports local economies. It’s a point the Pentagon has increasingly pushed in recent months as current Ukraine funding ran out — and Ukraine’s front lines began to ration munitions against a much more robustly supplied Russian army.

“As I have done with other members, and I’ll do with these members, I’ll talk to them about the importance of the supplemental and not only how it helps Ukraine but also how it helps all of us. What I mean by that is much of the money, about 80% of the money out of the supplemental, will go back into our defense industrial base,” Brown said in a call with reporters ahead of the trip.

Lockheed Martin’s Camden plant produces both the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which is a coveted long-range firing system Ukraine has effectively used against Russian front lines, and the Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, long-range missiles that are quick and that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said have proved effective against Russian forces. The McAlester plant produces Navy and Air Force bombs — but is also a major storage site for critically needed 155mm munitions. In support of Ukraine the McAlester plant has also accelerated repair of Stinger and Hawk missiles and has refurbished South Korea-provided 155mm rounds with new markings and fuses.

“I think there’s real value in coming to see this firsthand and have time with them on the airplane to talk about why this is important and why going to these two locations is important,” Brown said.

Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, a high-ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Oklahoma Sen. John Lankford, who negotiated the failed border bill that has now become a sticking point for the Ukraine aid bill in the House, had been scheduled to travel with Brown but will no longer be on the trip.

The lawmakers have taken different approaches on their support for Ukraine as the war has dragged on.

In May 2022, the Arkansas senators split on the $40 billion Ukraine aid package, with Cotton joining Lankford in favor of the aid and Boozman opposed.

Mullin, who was a member of the House at the time before being elected to the Senate, also voted in favor of the 2022 aid package, as did Westerman.

But more recently, as the Senate last month approved the $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific allies, Cotton, Lankford and Mullin voted against it, while Boozman was in favor.

That bill is now stalled in the House, opposed by hard-line Republicans, including Rep. Josh Brecheen, who joined Congress in 2023. He said on social media the “disastrous legislation must be stopped.”

Source: post

No posts to display