Congress Set to Give Pentagon $6.5 Billion for Ukraine War, Money for Troop Pay Increase

U.S. Army paratroopers at a sniper range in Nowa Deba, Poland
U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat, 82nd Airborne Division prepare to train with their Polish Allies at a sniper range in Nowa Deba, Poland, March 3, 2022. (U.S. Army/Catessa Palone)

Congress is poised to approve $13.6 billion to respond to the war in Ukraine, including $6.5 billion for the Pentagon to cover the cost of sending weapons to the country as it battles a Russian invasion and deploying U.S. troops to Eastern Europe.

The money was attached to a broader government spending bill unveiled early Wednesday morning that would fund the government through September and give defense programs $782 billion, not including the emergency Ukraine funding. The bill also funds the 2.7% pay increase active-duty service members began receiving in January.

The House is expected to pass the bill later Wednesday, followed by the Senate in the coming days.

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The $13.6 billion for Ukraine is above the $10 billion the White House asked for last week as lawmakers rush to help Ukrainian forces build on their early successes defending most of the country's major cities, as well as respond to a growing humanitarian crisis that has created 2 million refugees fleeing Ukraine in two weeks.

Of the $6.5 billion in Pentagon funding for Ukraine, $3 billion is meant to pay for the U.S. troop deployments to Eastern Europe. About 14,000 U.S. troops are deploying to allies on NATO's eastern flank who are worried the conflict in Ukraine could spill across their borders, though administration officials have insisted no U.S. troops will enter Ukraine.

The other $3.5 billion is meant to restock U.S. weapons that have been or will be sent to Ukraine.

The bill also includes the authority for the administration to provide loans or loan guarantees for NATO allies who give equipment, including fighter jets, to Ukraine and would need to buy new weapons for themselves to replace those capabilities.

    Lawmakers in both parties have been pushing the administration to broker a deal for Poland to buy F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets in exchange for Poland sending its Soviet-era MiG fighter jets to Ukraine. But the Pentagon on Wednesday rejected as "untenable" a Polish proposal to give the MiGs to the United States to give to Ukraine.

    More broadly, the overall government spending bill released Wednesday would finally provide steady funding for fiscal 2022 nearly six months after the fiscal year started last October.

    Democrats and Republicans had struggled for months to reach an agreement on government funding, largely over disputes on domestic funding, and passed a series of stopgap spending measures that continued financing government agencies at last year's levels.

    The bill's $782 billion for defense, which includes the Pentagon and other defense accounts such as the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons programs, is about $29 billion more than the Biden administration asked for.

    Congress had already signed off on a $25 billion increase to Biden's defense budget request in a defense policy bill signed into law in December. But Republicans successfully pushed for even more in the spending bill as a trade-off for agreeing to domestic spending increases sought by Democrats.

    The defense funding includes $728.5 billion for most Pentagon programs and another $14.9 billion for military construction projects.

    In addition to the emergency Ukraine funding, the regular Pentagon funding includes $300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, the fund used to train and equip Ukrainian forces.

    The Pentagon's haul includes the money to fund the 2.7% pay raise that troops got at the beginning of the year.

    It also includes $97 million to implement the Pentagon's plan to overhaul how it handles sexual assault in the military, as well as $1 million for the Army to strip the names of Confederate leaders from military bases, roads and other facilities.

    Lawmakers also added $686.4 million to fund clean up efforts and provide support to military families after the fuel leak at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii late last year.

    The Department of Veterans Affairs would get $112.2 billion, which is $7.8 billion more than last year but $755 million less than the administration requested.

    The VA funding includes $97.5 billion for medical care, including $13.2 billion for mental health care, as well as $2.2 billion for veteran homelessness programs and $2.5 billion to continue the implementation of the troubled VA electronic health record program.

    Much of the increase above the administration's budget request would go to weapons purchases, which at $144.9 billion is $12.4 billion more than the administration asked for.

    Among the weapons purchases are 12 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, 85 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 12 F-15EXs and 13 Navy ships, including two Virginia-class submarines and two DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

    The bill also includes $7.2 billion more in Pentagon research and development funds than the administration requested, for a total of $119.2 billion.

    -- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

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