Pentagon running low on money to replace weapons sent to Ukraine, DOD comptroller says
Stars and Stripes October 2, 2023
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is running low on money to replace the weapons and equipment that have been shipped to Ukraine and defense officials are asking Congress to authorize more funds as soon as possible, the Defense Department’s top budgetary official said.
Every time the United States sends emergency military aid to Ukraine, the equipment comes from Pentagon stocks and makes them unavailable for U.S. forces around the world. Of the roughly $26 billion that Congress previously authorized to replace weapons and equipment for the embattled country, only $1.6 billion remains, Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord wrote in a letter to House and Senate lawmakers.
McCord also expressed concern that the stopgap funding approved by Congress on Saturday to avert a government shutdown does not include new funding for Ukraine aid.
“I write to express the Department of Defense’s deep concern with the absence of [new] security assistance funding for Ukraine,” McCord said in the letter, which was sent to Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. “[We are] anxious to avoid a lapse in appropriations, but it is important that a [continuing resolution] protect our security interests and uphold our commitments and our values.”
New aid for Ukraine was removed from the continuing resolution to ensure enough House Republicans voted for the spending measure. The resolution will keep funding the government until mid-November, giving Congress more than a month to pass the appropriate bills to fund the government through September 2024 and appropriate more aid to help Ukraine fight invading Russian forces.
“We have already been forced to slow down the replenishment of our own forces to hedge against an uncertain funding future,” McCord wrote. “Failure to replenish our military services on a timely basis could harm our military’s readiness.”
The Pentagon reportedly has about $5.4 billion left in presidential drawdown authority, which allows the military to send weapons quickly from DOD shelves on an emergency basis. But McCord wrote the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative is already out of money. Because weapons sent through the assistance initiative don’t come from Pentagon stocks, they don’t need to be replaced.
“Without additional funding now, we would have to delay or curtail assistance to meet Ukraine’s urgent requirements, including for air defense and ammunition that are critical and urgent now as Russia prepares to conduct a winter offensive and continues its bombardment of Ukrainian cities,” he wrote. “For example, a lack of USAI funding now will delay contracting actions that could negatively impact the department’s ability to purchase essential additional 155 mm artillery and critical munitions essential to the success of Ukraine’s armed forces.”
Though many congressional lawmakers agree with continuing aid to Ukraine, a growing number of Republicans, particularly those on the party’s far right, are beginning to balk at approving more funds. Many who stress the importance of keeping up aid, including President Joe Biden, have said in recent days that the assistance cannot stop now.
“We cannot under any circumstance allow America’s support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” Biden said Sunday. “The vast majority of both parties … support helping Ukraine in the brutal aggression that is being thrust upon them by Russia. Stop playing games. Get this done.”
McCord wrote in his letter that cutting off aid to Ukraine would put the Eastern European country in a dire situation — and possibly encourage other nations, such as China, to carry out further acts of aggression. Beijing has repeatedly expressed a desire to “unify” with Taiwan — a move that could require military force.
“Delays to additional funding would also be perceived by Ukraine as a sign of wavering U.S. support and likely as a betrayal of our previous commitments,” McCord wrote. “It is crucial that the U.S. continues to lead [the] global coalition, and we need the resources to underwrite our leadership role.”