A retired US military official has sounded the alarm about “price gouging” by American weapons suppliers, saying the number of weapons being sent to Ukraine is depleting stocks that can't be easily replaced due to soaring prices.
The charge of "price gouging" was made by Shay Assad, a long-time contract negotiator at the Pentagon that retired after 40 years of service, during an interview with the CBS news show, 60 Minutes, on Sunday.
Assad went on to insist that US weapons manufacturers have jacked up their prices amid surging demands for armaments due to the war in Ukraine, as well as a potential future conflict with China over Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).
He described as “unconscionable” the gouging that is taking place, warning that the skyrocketing prices are already having a harmful effect on the US military.
Assad further noted that no matter what company it is, they need to be held accountable, emphasizing that the accountability system at the Pentagon is broken.
The program reported that chronic overcharging by arms companies not only wastes money, but it also puts the country’s security at risk by increasing the chances that weapons systems funded by the Pentagon will be overpriced, underperforming, and never fully ready for combat.
It added that a major contributor to price gouging is the fact that the arms industry is far more concentrated than it has ever been, due to a merger boom that started in the 1990s and has stepped up again in recent years, particularly with the 2020 Raytheon-United Technologies merger.
The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that weapons making corporations, which had previously been rivals with competitive prices, were urged to consolidate to create a handful of giant firms in the 1990s. While subsequent cost-cutting measures saw government contract negotiator and overseer jobs cut.
There were 51 major military contractors in 1990s. Now there are only five top weapons contractors, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman.
These companies split over $118 billion in Pentagon contracts in Fiscal Year 2022, or nearly one-third of all contracts issued by the Pentagon that year. They make most of the major weapons systems purchased by the US government.
According to the program, these weapons manufacturers will likely rip off the US taxpayer once again when the military replenishes supplies shipped to Ukraine.
The latest development comes almost a week after Politico magazine reported that Washington will have problems providing funds for weapons and munitions to Ukrainian forces fighting against Russia.
On May 15, Politico reported that of the $48 billion aid package approved in December last year, only $6 billion is left -- which will in turn dry up by mid-summer, thus raising concerns in Congress.
According to the news site, lawmakers are worried that funding more weapons and munitions to Ukraine amid the looming budget crisis in Washington might be problematic.
Republican lawmakers, who are stalling approval of the Biden administration’s budget bill, demand a cut in tax-payers' money going to Ukraine as military aid.
Since Russia launched its "special military operation" in Ukraine in February 2022, the US has sent Kiev tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons including drones, artillery guns, armored vehicles and tanks in addition to advanced Patriot missiles systems and loads of various munitions.
Russia has repeatedly warned the West that flooding Ukraine with weapons will only prolong the war and increase the amount of destruction.