Congress wants more details on latest Ukraine aid request

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WASHINGTON — Several U.S. senators on Tuesday requested additional information and reporting on President Joe Biden’s new $13.7 billion funding request for Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion.

The White House Budget Office last week announced the latest request for assistance from Ukraine, which includes $11.7 billion for security and economic assistance through December. It is also asking for an additional $2 billion to reduce domestic energy costs partly due to the war.

Defense spending panel chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., told Defense News he wants Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin or Undersecretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks to provide more information on Requirement.

“I’m not against it; I just want to know what’s in there,” Tester said.

Members of the Armed Services Committee, the senses. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, also requested that the Pentagon inform the Armed Services Committee and submit a report with more details.

In addition to the new request, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., told Defense News that the Biden administration should quickly use the roughly $2.8 billion in untapped drawdown authority to send materials from stockpiles. Americans in Ukraine, because the authority is due to expire on October 1.

He lambasted the White House for only asking for $7.2 billion under the new $13.7 billion request for the Department of Defense, arguing it is far too low.

Since last August, Biden has used the presidential authority to withdraw 11 times to provide tens of billions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine.

The $7.2 billion in new aid to Ukraine includes an additional $3.7 billion in presidential drawdown authorization and an additional $1.5 billion to replenish items sent to Ukraine from US stockpiles. An additional $3 billion, under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, would allow the Pentagon to contract for new weapons and equipment for Ukraine.

Separately, the Pentagon would receive just under $1.6 billion to maintain the presence of US troops bolstering NATO’s eastern edge after Russia invaded. The United States has temporarily deployed about 20,000 forces and now has about 100,000 US military personnel in Europe.

“This aid package is insufficient to provide Ukrainians with what they need to win,” Inhofe said in a Twitter post last week. “Administrator Biden is now explicitly advocating to provide Ukraine with less military aid than Congress gave them months ago in a massive bipartisan vote. Congress will have to lead again.

“It’s clear that Congress will have a lot of work to do to improve the Ukraine aid program when we return. The American people deserve a military assistance strategy that protects American national interests by helping the Ukrainians quickly end this war,” he added in the post.

Asked Tuesday whether the Pentagon would use the $2.8 billion in drawdown authorization unused before it expired, Department of Defense Press Secretary Brig. General Patrick Ryder did not respond directly.

The Pentagon is “committed to using the aid we have to support Ukraine,” he said. “And we will continue to work closely with the interagency and with Congress to ensure that we spend this aid as quickly as possible to support them in their fight.”

Congress approved a $13.6 billion aid package for Ukraine in March. Lawmakers tripled that funding in May with another $40 billion package of military, economic and food aid for Ukraine and U.S. allies, which the White House said was designed to last through September. The Biden administration originally asked for a lower amount — $33 billion — in its second request for additional Ukraine aid..

The $40 billion aid package for Ukraine amounted to about $2 billion a month in drawdown authority, and the Biden administration’s new request equates to about $1 billion a month, according to a Republican congressional aide.

“That’s the central fight we’re going to have about this extra expense,” said the aide, who was not authorized to speak to the press. “They want to go about half the pace Congress told them to go. They are not breaking the law when they do not use the power of levy. It’s a violation, I would say, of the spirit of the law.

The White House submitted the latest request as part of an ongoing resolution to fund the government through December, which Congress must pass before the end of the month to avoid a shutdown. But some Republicans have called for a clean government funding bill, raising the possibility that Congress will pass another standalone additional bill for Ukraine.

“The cleaner the better,” said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the appropriations committee and its defense spending panel. “We have to see where we are and where our caucus is.”

About $750 million in Ukraine’s new aid request would go to procurement, in part increasing production of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or GMLRS. Recent aid programs in artillery-focused warfare have included Lockheed Martin-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, with GMLRS munitions.

A separate provision would expand the pool of recipients of U.S. foreign military financing loans beyond just NATO countries to other countries affected by the situation in Ukraine. The idea is to encourage these countries to donate equipment to Ukraine, which foreign military funding loans would then replenish.

“We have brought the world together to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their democracy and we cannot allow that support for Ukraine to dry up,” the Office of Management and Budget said in its announcement last week. . “The people of Ukraine have inspired the world, and the administration remains committed to supporting the people of Ukraine as they continue to stand resolutely and show extraordinary courage in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion. “

Joe Gould is the Pentagon’s senior reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He was previously a congressional reporter.

Bryant Harris is the congressional reporter for Defense News. He has covered US foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

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