Ukraine War Sparks Call for Billions More in Pentagon Funding

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A U.S. Marine fires a FIM-92 Stinger missile during a training exercise.
A U.S. Marine fires a FIM-92 Stinger missile during a live-fire training exercise at Onslow Beach, North Carolina, May 21, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Elias E. Pimentel III)

The U.S. response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine is poised to cost billions of dollars, with the Biden administration asking Congress for more Pentagon funding immediately and talk already starting of beefing up next year's defense budget.

The White House on Thursday asked Congress for $10 billion to respond to the war in Ukraine, including $4.8 billion for the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, the Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday there's "no doubt" the invasion will mean a bigger defense budget in fiscal 2023 than previously expected.

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"Without question, it's going to have to be bigger than we thought," Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said at an event at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank. "The Russian invasion of Ukraine fundamentally altered what our national security posture and what our defense posture needs to be. It made it more complicated, and it made it more expensive."

The U.S. military is deploying 14,000 troops to Eastern Europe to shore up defenses for NATO allies worried Moscow will continue pushing West after Ukraine.

The Pentagon has also shipped hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons to Ukraine in recent months, including a $350 million package approved by President Joe Biden last week.

The White House's Thursday request for emergency Pentagon funding includes $1.8 billion to cover the cost of the troop deployments.

    The White House also asked for $1.75 billion to replenish U.S. weapons stocks that are being sent to Ukraine, including the most recent $350 million package, a $200 million package approved in January and $1.2 billion for any future shipments.

    The administration also wants $1.25 billion for "accelerated cyber capabilities, weapons systems upgrades, increased intelligence support and classified programs."

    Lawmakers in both parties are supportive of the Ukraine funding. But the White House coupled the request with one for $22.5 billion for ongoing COVID-19 response efforts that Republicans are skeptical of, which could complicate passage of the Ukraine aid.

    Still, congressional leaders said they expect to include the Ukraine funding in a broader spending bill that Congress needs to pass next week to keep the government open past March 11, when current funding expires.

    "At this time, the fastest way for us to get the Ukraine money is for us to have it on this legislation," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Thursday when asked about including it in the broader spending bill.

    Amid the talk of emergency funding for Ukraine, lawmakers are still working to finalize regular funding for the Pentagon and the rest of the federal government for fiscal 2022, nearly six months after the fiscal year started.

    With work still not done on fiscal 2022, the administration has not yet released a fiscal 2023 budget proposal. But reports have indicated the administration was eyeing more than $770 billion for the Pentagon prior to the Ukrainian war.

    On Thursday, Smith said he hasn't settled on a specific number he thinks the fiscal 2023 defense budget should be now that war has broken out. But, nodding to his own skepticism over ballooning defense budgets, Smith said he doesn't "see much way to argue" against an increase now.

    "The decision to invade Ukraine by Russia changes it, and it's going to go up," he said. "There's no doubt about it."

    -- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at rebecca.kheel@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

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