- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2001

The U.S. Army is running out of bullets.
A memo sent this week by Fort Hood, Texas, the Army installation with the largest population, says soldiers are suffering a worldwide shortage of 9 mm ammunition.
The 9 mm Beretta pistol is standard issue for many officers and certain enlisted ratings, such as military police (MPs) and tank crews.
The memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, said range marksmanship training was being canceled except for police and soldiers about to deploy overseas from Fort Hood.
The memo is one of the clearest signs to date, Army sources said, that the military needs a quick infusion of cash to reverse a downward trend in combat readiness.
"Due to an Army worldwide 9 mm ammo shortage, all Fort Hood 9 mm ranges have been canceled except for 89th MPs and special deployment needs," says the memo circulated Monday among Army III Corps units. "This shortage is expected to last until something this fall… . Until further notice no units (active, reserve, National Guard) will get [9 mm bullets] based on their normal forecast except [MPs]."
Calling the situation a "critical shortage," the memo states that those units that still have 9 mm shells "should ensure they get maximum training benefit from it… . Units should micromanage [9 mm ammo] already in the hands of units."
"There's still an option. Personnel in the units that are deploying will be able to fire and train in the 9 mm," said Cecil Green, a spokesman at Fort Hood, home to the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry divisions. He declined further comment.
Army sources said the bullet shortages are another bad sign for a branch that was stretched thin this decade on global peacekeeping missions.
"This is indicative of a lot of other problems," said an Army source who asked not to be named. "We've been robbing Peter to pay Paul for years. What does this tell you? We don't have enough ammo to shoot. They keep demanding we do more with less. The situation is not healthy."
Maj. Tom Artis, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said the shortage stems from budget shortfalls as opposed to production problems.
He said decisions on whether to cancel Beretta firings are up to each base. He said the Army is fixing the shortage by reprogramming budget dollars into ammunition accounts.
"The guys who really need the ammunition are getting it," he said.
Col. Guy Shields, a spokesman for Army Forces Command in Georgia, said the command has passed the word to the 197,000 troops it oversees that a shortage exists for training rounds and to deal with it unit by unit.
An Army officer stationed at a base overseas said personnel have been warned of shortages of another bullet that for the M16. He said Army regulations call for specified amounts of training ammo to be issued to each soldier.
A Senate Armed Services Committee report on this year's defense budget said the Army is short $242 million in its ammunition procurement account.
"For the past several years, field commanders have expressed concern regarding the inadequate stocks of ammunition to support their training and war reserve requirements," the committee said.
One Army official commented: "I wonder why they can't go down to WalMart and make a local purchase. Last I checked, they had plenty of 9 mm ammo." A box of 9 mm shells at WalMart costs about $7.
Congressional sources said yesterday the Army shortages of such a basic combat tool as bullets is evidence that Congress needs to pass a defense bill this spring to supplement the current Pentagon budget. The Army has submitted a $2.9 billion request.
The sources say the Bush White House is cool toward additional defense spending this year. But the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who already have sent a supplemental spending request to Congress, are adamant in saying the services need emergency money to shore up readiness accounts for spare parts, fuel, building repairs and ammunition.
Some staffers are working to keep the bill no higher than $7 billion. But they fear a rush by lawmakers to add "pork" projects would prompt the White House and congressional leaders to kill the legislation.

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