Congress Wants More Aid For Ukraine — But Doesn’t Know What The US Is Already Providing

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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UPDATE: This piece has been updated to include a statement from Republican Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe.

U.S. senators criticized the Biden administration for falling behind on aid to Ukraine, while at the same time admitting they have little insight into the contents of the latest White House assistance request, Defense News reported Tuesday.

President Joe Biden added a $13.7 billion Ukraine assistance funding request to a continuing resolution on Sept. 2, of which $11.7 billion will go directly to security and economic aid, according to ABC News. Congressmembers, including Armed Services Committee members Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, said top Pentagon officials should provide additional briefings and reports with more details of the request, which comes on top of the $40 billion Biden authorized earlier this year, Defense News reported.

“I’m not opposed to it; I just want to know what’s in it,” Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, chairman of Congress’ defense spending panel, told Defense News. (RELATED: McConnell Calls Out Republicans Over Latest Vote)

Of the $7.2 billion directed to the Defense Department for weapons procurement and transfers to Ukraine, $3.7 billion derives from the presidential drawdown authority that allows the administration to pull from U.S. stockpiles, leaving $2.8 billion untapped. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe told Defense News the Biden administration should make use of the remaining drawdown potential before Biden’s authorization expires at the end of the month.

“As I’ve said before, the American people deserve a military aid strategy in Ukraine that will empower the Ukrainians to end this war on their terms, not Putin’s,” Inhofe told the Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “I’m concerned that the administration has conflated military aid for Ukraine with other, unrelated issues — and I’m disappointed that this administration has not followed Congress on our drive to help the Ukrainians win faster.”

Besides leaving congressionally-authorized funds on the table, the package falls short of what is needed to sustain Ukraine’s effort to repel Russia from its territory, Inhofe argued. The Biden administration has used the drawdown authority 11 times since August 2021 to provide military assistance to Ukraine, for a total of $8 billion.

Congress approved a $40 billion aid package in May, roughly $7 billion above what the Biden administration had initially requested. The latest request to Congress, intended to fund the government through the end of the calendar year, provides just half of the monthly drawdown funding for Ukraine compared to that included in the May package.

Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder declined to say whether the final drawdown authority would be utilized Tuesday.

“Now’s the time to make sure the flow keeps going,” Luke Coffey, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute with a focus on Europe and national security, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive on two fronts, a sign of escalating combat between the two sides.

The Biden administration wants “to go at roughly half the rate Congress told them to go,” a Republican aide told Defense News.

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama suggested to Defense News that Congress could pass a separate supplemental bill depending on how the midterm elections shift the overall attitude of Congress toward the war.

The push for further military support to Ukraine comes amid warnings from the Pentagon’s inspector general of a lack of proper oversight and transparency on some materiel deliveries.

Financial assistance for Ukraine has enjoyed support from both sides of the aisle.

The White House did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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