US Providing $300 Million in New Ukraine Military Aid

pentagon — The United States is providing a new round of military aid for Ukraine valued at up to $300 million, the first such announcement since late December, in what defense officials have called an “ad hoc” package made possible through U.S. Army procurement savings.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced the 55th presidential drawdown authority (PDA) package at the White House on Tuesday and said it would include artillery rounds and munitions for HIMARS, weapons desperately needed on the Ukrainian front lines where shortages abound.

The funding for this package came from savings garnered in “multiple contract actions over multiple months” where the Army was able to “buy things at a better price” than initially budgeted, according to senior defense officials who spoke to reporters on conditional of anonymity ahead of the White House announcement.

“This is a bit of an ad hoc or one-time shot. We don’t know if or when future savings will come in, and we certainly can’t count on this as a way of doing business,” one of the senior defense officials said.

In one example provided by the officials, the Army had initially estimated the cost of 25 mm rounds at $130 but was able to negotiate the price down to $93.

The savings were then placed back into the U.S. funding pot for Ukraine aid, a process that has happened several times but wasn’t considered as newsworthy during those times because the fund wasn’t “broke” before, according to defense officials.

$10 billion shortfall

The aid package comes despite a Pentagon funding shortfall of about $10 billion for U.S. military weapons needed to replace those already sent to Ukraine, a shortfall that requires additional money from Congress to fix, according to top defense officials.

“We don’t foresee a likely alternative outside of the supplemental funding [bill] or having that money added into an appropriations bill in order to achieve the replenishment that we need,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks told reporters on Monday.

Pentagon officials expected to get the funding to replenish those stocks in a supplemental request from the Biden administration, which included billions of additional dollars in aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. However, Congress has yet to pass a supplemental aid bill because of arguments on spending and U.S. border security.

Because it has been 15 months since Congress last approved money to help Ukraine, defense officials say Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has expressed concerns about any future drawdowns.

The department still has about $4 billion in authority to send weapons to Ukraine, but there is no congressionally approved money left to replenish the Pentagon’s weapons stockpiles.

“We have the ability to move funds out of our stocks, but without the ability to replenish them, we are putting our own readiness at some risks,” according to one senior defense official.

The $10 billion shortfall is tied to the way the Pentagon has accounted for the aid sent to Ukraine. Last June, the Pentagon said it overestimated the value of weapons sent to Ukraine by about $6.2 billion over the past two years.

When calculating its aid package estimates, the Department of Defense was counting the cost incurred to replace the weapons given to Ukraine, while it said it should have been totaling the cost of the systems actually sent, officials told VOA at the time.

The error provided the Pentagon the legal cover needed to send more aid to Ukraine, but the problem remained that more funds would be needed to replenish U.S. military stockpiles with newer, costlier weapons.

Asked by VOA why the Pentagon was willing to use its savings to send more aid for Ukraine but was not willing to dip into this the $4 billion of remaining presidential drawdown authority, one of the senior defense officials told reporters that “the lack of clarity” from Congress on whether they will approve additional aid makes the Pentagon “very reluctant to dig the hole deeper.”

“In this case, we are not digging the hole deeper. We’re staying even, while recognizing that Ukraine is in a very tough spot this moment,” the defense official added.

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