$20 Billion More for the Pentagon to Arm Ukraine Gets First Approval in Congress

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Airman chains down an M777 howitzer loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III
A U.S. Air Force Airman from the 452nd Air Mobility Wing., chains down an M777 howitzer loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III at March Air Reserve Base, CA., Apr. 27, 2022. The security assistance the U.S. is providing to Ukraine is enabling critical success on the battlefield against the Russian invading force. (Shawn White/U.S. Air Force)

The Pentagon is poised to get a nearly $20 billion infusion to ship more weapons to Ukraine and support U.S. troops stationed elsewhere in Europe as the conflict nears the three-month mark.

The Pentagon funding is part of a broader $40 billion security and humanitarian aid package approved by the House on Tuesday night in a 368-57 vote, with all the "no" votes coming from Republicans. The bill is also expected to pass the Senate in the coming days with a similarly wide bipartisan majority; Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the floor Wednesday his chamber would act on the bill "as soon as we can."

"Given the magnitude of the terror campaign being waged against the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian democracy, we are morally obligated to ensure Ukraine has the security and economic aid they need," House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said in a statement Tuesday.

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The bill moving through Congress this week is the second major funding package it has approved to respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The first $13.6 billion aid package passed in March included $6.5 billion for the Pentagon.

The latest bill comes as the United States is lurching toward involvement in the conflict through higher-profile weapons shipments, training Ukrainian forces and reportedly sharing intelligence that has led to Russian battlefield losses.

The administration has been warning it's nearly exhausted the weapons funding included in the March bill, with the Pentagon saying Monday only $100 million was left. President Joe Biden delivered a statement the same day saying he expected the funding to dry up in 10 days.

"The additional resources included in this bill will allow us to send more weapons, such as artillery, armored vehicles and ammunition, to Ukraine," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Tuesday night after the House vote. "And they will help us replenish our stockpile and support U.S. troops on NATO territory. As the president said yesterday, we cannot afford any delay in this vital effort."

    Biden had asked for $33 billion more to address the continuing war, including $16.4 billion for the Pentagon. But Congress beefed that up to $39.8 billion overall, with $19.8 billion for the Pentagon.

    By comparison, the money headed to the Pentagon in the new bill is about one-third of Russia's $65.9 billion military budget for all of 2021.

    The bill would provide $8.7 billion to replenish the stocks of U.S. weapons that are being sent to Ukraine.

    It would also allocate $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, the program Congress created in 2016 to buy weapons for and help train the Ukrainian military.

    There's also $3.9 billion for U.S. military operations in Europe, including "mission support, intelligence support, hardship pay for troops deployed to the region and equipment including a Patriot battery," according to a summary of the bill released by House Appropriations Committee Democrats.

    The Pentagon funding is rounded out with $600 million to help contractors speed up missile production, $500 million to ensure the United States doesn't run low on its own "critical" ammunition, and $50 million to develop plans that could ease future weapons exports to U.S. allies and partners.

    The White House had also asked for Congress to include in the Ukraine bill a pathway for Afghan refugees to secure permanent legal residency in the United States, but that provision was jettisoned from the legislation approved by the House amid Republican objections.

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

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