WASHINGTON ― A U.S.-led meeting of armaments directors from around the world will take place in Brussels on Sept. 28, the Pentagon’s acquisitions chief said Friday.
The meeting, coordinated with NATO, will be under the auspices of the 50-nation Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which is dedicated to arming Ukraine in its ongoing fight against Russia’s invasion. The U.S. invited the armaments directors of the member nations to the upcoming huddle, Bill LaPlante told reporters.
In looking beyond arming Ukraine for its current fight, the U.S. is taking a lead role in establishing a longer-term weapons pipeline to allies and partners. Beyond this month’s meeting, top U.S. officials unveiled a $2.2 billion Foreign Military Financing package to be split in half between Ukraine and 18 of it Eastern European neighbors.
In Brussels, officials will compare notes on how to ramp up production of key capabilities, as well as discuss the state of supply chains for microelectronics, solid rocket motors and other components, LaPlante said. They will also talk about ways to “increase interoperability between our systems [and] what I would call increased interchangeability,” he added.
“We have a lot to learn from each other,” LaPlante said, adding that many American and European firms have offices, factories and collaborations in each other’s countries.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin offered few details when he first announced the plans on Thursday during the Ukraine Defense Contact Group’s latest meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Just as efforts to send billions of dollars’ worth of arms to Ukraine has forced conversations in the U.S. about the strengths and weaknesses of the American defense-industrial base, top U.S. officials are expanding that conversation to other partners in the fight ― and they’re hoping for candor.
“People are sort of in the same position we are, but I should remind everybody the scale of the United States defense enterprise is just something very different than what our partners and allies have,” LaPlante said. “I think that’s one of the topic areas: to compare notes and see where people are. Hopefully people will be able to have some [things] revealed because part of this is revealing your own situation.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. is seeing demand in Europe for the kinds of weapons Ukraine is using against Russian forces, like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System made by Lockheed Martin. Pentagon officials say that will likely fuel future requests for U.S. arms transfers, possibly through the recently announced Foreign Military Financing package.
“I don’t think we know yet exactly what each of these countries might be asking for,” said Sasha Baker, the U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense for policy “This is sort of the starting gun for that process. But I think certainly they’re looking to learn lessons from what they’re seeing in Ukraine and then apply them for their own security.”
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.