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Pentagon considering tapping last source of Ukraine military funding as Congress stalls on additional aid

by Chanel Rowe
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Originally Published: 28 FEB 24 10:51 ET

Updated: 28 FEB 24 10:54 ET

By Natasha Bertrand and Oren Liebermann, CNN

(CNN) — The Pentagon is weighing whether to tap into the last remaining source of funding it has for military aid to support Ukraine’s war effort against Russia even without guarantees that those funds will be replenished by Congress, multiple defense officials told CNN.

The Defense Department still has around $4 billion in presidential drawdown authority funds available for Ukraine, which allows the Pentagon to draw from its own stockpiles to send military equipment to Kyiv.

But the Pentagon had previously been reluctant to spend any of that remaining money without assurances it would be reimbursed by Congress through the administration’s $60 billion supplemental funding request, because taking from DoD stockpiles with no plan to replenish that equipment could impact US military readiness.

But with Ukraine growing increasingly desperate for US military aid and Republican leadership in the House refusing to hold a vote on providing more funding, senior defense officials are discussing whether there is any financial cushion internally that would allow the department to spend at least part of that remaining $4 billion to help Ukraine fight Russia.

No decisions have been made yet, officials emphasized. But the conversations about that option and other potential plan Bs have become increasingly urgent over the last several weeks as the situation on the battlefield in Ukraine has become more dire, the officials said.

Ukrainian troops have been forced to ration ammunition and have lost some ground in the east, including the key city of Avdiivka, which fell to the Russians earlier this month.

Asked about the possibility of tapping into the remaining $4 billion, Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Garron Garn said in a statement, “The DoD continues to urge Congress to pass a supplemental to support Ukraine in its time of need and to replenish our stocks.”

Officials said the department could go ahead and spend part of that $4 billion even without finding money internally that could be used to replenish it. But it would not be unprecedented for the Pentagon to find additional, unexpected sources of funding.

Last year, the Defense Department announced that it had discovered an accounting error that led to DoD overvaluing the amount of aid it was providing to Ukraine by $6.2 billion. That extra money provided a cushion to the department that allowed it to draw out military assistance to Ukraine for longer than anticipated, CNN previously reported.

Asked on Tuesday whether the department was considering spending some of the remaining money, Pentagon press secretary Gen. Patrick Ryder said he had nothing to announce but that the Pentagon was continuing to explore ways to keep supporting Ukraine.

“We’re going to continue to look at ways that we can support Ukraine in their fight for freedom and to preserve their sovereignty,” Ryder said.

Last month, however, Ryder spoke about some of the concerns the department had in tapping into those funds.

“At issue here again is the question of impacting our own readiness, as a nation, and the responsibilities that we have,” he said last month when asked about the money. “And so, yes, while we do have that $4.2 billion in authority, we don’t have the funds available to us to replenish those stocks should we expend that. And with no timeline in sight, we have to make those hard decisions.”

A separate defense official told CNN that the next aid package to Ukraine, if it comes, “will absolutely include critical munitions.” There are also discussions about how and where to preposition military equipment so that it can be sent as quickly as possible to Ukraine once additional funding sources are identified, the official said.

The last Ukraine security package, worth up to $250 million, was announced on December 27. Some weapons and equipment from previous drawdown packages and Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) packages are still flowing into Ukraine, but the US has not announced any new packages since then.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN this week that Ukraine will not win the war without continued US support.

“People will be prepared, but ammunition will not be prepared and brigades will not be ready… not only for our counter-offensive, they will not be ready to defend, to stay strong. It will be very difficult,” he said.

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Ukraine aid

**This image is for use with this specific article only** The Pentagon is considering using the last bit of approved funding for Ukraine with no guarantees it will be replenished. In this July 2022 photo, Ukrainian servicemen prepare to fire at Russian positions from a US-supplied M777 howitzer in Kharkiv region of Ukraine.

Evgeniy Maloletka/AP/File via CNN Newsource

28 Feb 24

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