US Insufficiently Tracked More Than $1 Billion In Weapons For Ukraine, Pentagon Watchdog Finds

(Photo by ALEX BRANDON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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U.S. defense and diplomatic officials improperly tracked more than $1 billion in weapons provided to Ukraine as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to help the country defend itself against Russia’s invasion, raising questions about the U.S. ability to monitor aid, according to an inspector general report.

The investigation focused on how the Department of Defense (DOD) kept tabs on nearly 40,000 items considered sensitive and especially vulnerable to smuggling operations, according to The New York Times, which received a copy of the report. As of June 2, 2023, the U.S. had transferred to Ukraine at least $1.699 billion in items that by law qualify for enhanced end-use monitoring, and DOD officials failed to compile full or timely inventories on 69% of the total value, the report, released in a redacted form Thursday, stated.

DOD’s inability to input items into government databases or confirm their location in a timely manner “may increase the risk of theft or diversion,” the report found. (RELATED: ‘Not Enough’: House Speaker Throws Cold Water On Special Ukraine Watchdog In Defense Bill)

“Achieving a complete picture of EEUM-designated defense articles in Ukraine will be difficult as the inventory continues to change, and accuracy and completeness will likely only become more difficult over time,” the report says.

The items under end-use monitoring (EEUM) requirements include relatively small items like Javelin anti-tank weapons, Stinger anti-aircraft weapons, one-way attack drones and night vision goggles, according to the report.

Employees unload a plane carrying new US security assistance provided to Ukraine, at Kyiv's airport Boryspil on January 25, 2022. - The shipment includes equipment and munitions to bolster the defensive capacity of the Ukrainian Armed forces in their effort to protect the countrys sovereignty and territorial integrity and deter further Russian aggression, part of a new $200 million in security assistance directed to Ukraine from the United States by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Employees unload a plane carrying new US security assistance provided to Ukraine, at Kyiv’s airport Boryspil on January 25, 2022. (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

Figures depicting the total number of items are redacted in the public copy, but as of June, the U.S. had provided more than 10,000 Javelins, more than 2,5600 Stingers, 750 Switchblade suicide drones, 430 medium-range air-to-air missiles and 23,000 night vision devices, the NYT reported.

Lawmakers received a copy of the report Wednesday, according to the NYT.

The IG’s review didn’t determine whether arms dealers had actually stolen the weapons. “It was beyond the scope of our evaluation to determine whether there has been diversion of such assistance,” the report stated.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, officials in charge of monitoring the equipment as it passes through transport hubs in Poland to eventually reach Ukraine’s front lines have failed to meet a 90-day reporting requirement, the report found. That was mostly due to a lack of staff and travel restrictions within Ukraine, limiting how far U.S. officials could trace the equipment.

While tracking has improved with the introduction of handheld scanners and more robust procedures, those same challenges continued to limit monitoring through the end of the report’s investigation period.

In addition, the DOD did not have any policies in place for tracking EEUM items in areas with active hostilities, inserting some confusion and delays into the tracking process, according to the report.

Lawmakers in recent months have intensified pressures for increased oversight of weapons, equipment and humanitarian assistance devoted to Ukraine since the invasion. The items encompassed in the watchdog report represent just a fraction of the nearly $45 billion in security aid the U.S. has committed and highlight the challenges of end-use monitoring in a warzone.

DOD did not dispute the finding of delayed or incomplete accounting in a response included in the report, but reiterated the ultimate objective of the program — to ensure relative confidence in a foreign partner’s ability to meet end use commitments — was being achieved.

“Real-time accuracy” in the database “is not practical under wartime conditions,” Alexandra Baker, acting under secretary of defense for policy, wrote.

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