In the last two years, the United
States has purchased over a billion rounds of 5.56mm ammo from Taiwan. Before September 11, 2001, the U.S.
Department of Defense bought 350 million rounds of 5.56mm, 7.62mm and 12.7mm of
ammo a year. Most of this was 5.56mm, for M-16s, M-4s and light machine-guns.
By 2004, that was up to 1.2 billion rounds. This increased to 1.5 billion rounds
in 2005 and is now close to two billion rounds a year.
The U.S. Army has one very large ammo factory at
the Alliant Lake City plant in Independence, Missouri. This plant can normally
only produce 1.2 billion rounds a year, although that has since been expanded
to 1.5 billion rounds a year.
Additional ammo has been obtained by, first,
drawing down war reserve stocks. Taking over half a billion rounds from those
stocks, plus buying even more from civilian manufacturers (in the United
States, Canada, Taiwan and Israel), working round the clock, and putting mothballed
production facilities to work, has kept the troops supplied. The current high
production levels will remain until the war reserve stocks are rebuilt. In the
meantime, training will continue to use more ammo than in the past. In the
1990s, use of live ammo in training had been allowed to decline. That has been
stopped. Ammo usage in training will remain at high levels even after American
troops leave Afghanistan and Iraq, at least until the lessons learned this time
around are forgotten.