US Readiness ‘At Some Risk’ as Pentagon Sends $300 Million to Ukraine: Defense Official
US Readiness ‘At Some Risk’ as Pentagon Sends $300 Million to Ukraine: Defense Official

By Andrew Thornebrooke

The Pentagon is surging $300 million in arms to Ukraine after saving money on negotiated contracts, but it has dramatically overdrawn from U.S. stockpiles, defense officials say.

The new security package will allow Ukraine to bolster its defenses for a few weeks amid an increased Russian operational tempo, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder. told reporters during a March 12 briefing.

“In terms of Ukraine, it will give them some much-needed capability that will likely last in the weeks’ timeframe, but nowhere even close to what they need to be able to continue to sustain this fight,” Gen. Ryder said.

This package is the United States’ 55th tranche of security assistance to Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022 to demilitarize the nation. It includes artillery munitions, air defense systems, anti-tank rounds, and other equipment.

The Department of Defense (DoD) was able to cobble the package together by using savings from negotiated contracts first budgeted when U.S. assistance to Ukraine began.

One defense official told reporters on a press call that the nation’s purchase of some 120,000 rounds of 25mm ammunition, for example, was executed at a cost of $93 per unit instead of the original $130 allotted.

Not all is well for the Pentagon despite the savings, however.

The package was delivered through Presidential Drawdown Authorities (PDA) authorized in 2022. Such PDAs authorize the Pentagon to deliver weapons to Ukraine directly from U.S. stocks. Those stocks then need to be replenished, though, and the DoD has significantly overdrawn from U.S. stores.

Gen. Ryder told reporters that the Pentagon had, in fact, overdrawn from U.S. stockpiles by about $10 billion, meaning that the DoD will need to come up with that amount just to restore American stockpiles to normal levels, to say nothing of funding Ukraine’s defense against Russia.

Compounding the issue, he said, was the fact that the DoD maintains authorization to spend from—but not to replenish—those stockpiles.

Moreover, he said, the means of funding this particular package could not be replicated as it was dependent on cost savings made from previous packages. While such an occurrence may happen from “time to time,” he said, “it’s not something you can plan for.”

“Today’s PDA package, while providing urgent capabilities to Ukraine’s forces, is nowhere near enough,” Gen. Ryder said.

Speaking during a press call, one DoD official admitted that the continued drawdowns amid a multibillion-dollar deficit in the nation’s stockpiles posed a risk to U.S. national security.

“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 risk,” the official said.

To that end, the official said, President Joe Biden’s proposed supplemental spending bill, which has stalled in Congress, would now be required not simply to fund Ukraine, but repair the damage done to U.S. readiness.

“The supplemental is absolutely vital for our readiness, as well as Ukraine winning this conflict. This doesn’t change that at all. It is a relatively small package to give Ukraine the minimum of what it needs for a short amount of time. We need it badly.”

The official added that the latest tranche of weapons bound for Ukraine would arrive within days. The Pentagon was not considering any further drawdown packages at the time, the official added.

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