The US military is under pressure as it foots the bill for supporting Ukraine

(CNN) — The US As funding for Ukraine faces an uncertain future in Congress, the U.S. The military has had to pay a multimillion-dollar bill in the past few months to support Ukraine’s war effort against Russia, and Army officials are increasingly worried that, without new funding, they will have to start pulling money from other important projects to continue supporting Kiev.

Since October 2023, the beginning of the fiscal year, the US Army has spent more than $430 million on various operations, including training Ukrainian troops, transporting equipment and deploying US troops to Europe.

“We’re basically bringing it out of hiding in the Army,” a senior Army official told CNN.

So far, that bill has been picked up by the Army’s Europe and Africa Command. Without the 2024 budget approved by Congress, and without additional funding specifically for Ukraine, the command has about $3 billion to pay for $5 billion in operating costs, another senior Army official explained. It includes not only operations related to supporting Ukraine (training and transportation of weapons and equipment to Poland and Ukraine), but also other operations for the US command throughout Europe and Africa.

If Congress doesn’t approve new funding for Ukraine within months, Army officials say they will have to start making tougher decisions and divert money from less critical projects, such as much-needed barracks construction or recruiting incentives amid historic recruiting lows.

If the Army doesn’t withdraw funding from elsewhere, the roughly $3 billion budget in Europe and Africa will run out by the end of May, not only for operations related to Ukraine, but also elsewhere in Europe and Africa, he said. Another high-ranking Army official told CNN.

“If we don’t get a base budget, if we don’t get a supplemental (funding package) for Ukraine, if the government shuts down, if we don’t get anything else and nothing changes from today… leaving (operations and maintenance) without funding in May. are given,” said an army official. Those operations include training exercises for Army forces in Europe and Africa and the transfer of equipment to theaters of operations. The contracts will also not be paid on time and incur penalties, he added.

“We will cease to exist” if these funds are not allocated elsewhere in the Army budget, the official said.

Army Secretary Christine Wermuth, the service’s senior civilian leader who ultimately decides where the bulk of the budget is spent, told CNN that she expects the Army to “open one hole to plug another.”

“It’s very important where I put every extra dollar I have. And I’m constantly choosing between: Do we put it in barracks? Do I put it in recruiting incentives? Do I put it in exercise? put into modernization? I don’t have the extra money to donate some of that,” Wermuth said.

“This was money that we expected would be replenished, obviously, with the supplement,” he added, echoing the urgent need for funds.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during an event to announce a joint statement of support for Ukraine during the NATO summit in Vilnius on July 12, 2023. )

Training continues

While US funding for Ukraine has dried up, training for Ukrainian troops has continued because the president considers it an important mission. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for the US Army in Europe and Africa, told CNN that the United States is training about 1,500 Ukrainians at Germany’s Grafenwohr training area. In the United States, they also continue to train Ukrainian pilots in F-16 fighter jets at Morris Air National Guard Base in Arizona.

In addition to training, the Ukrainians are still receiving equipment from US stockpiles under previous Presidential Retirement Authority packages and weapons and equipment purchased at the Defense Industrial Base under the US Security Assistance Initiative. Ukraine (USAI).

The United States periodically announces PDA and USAI packages until funding runs out in late 2023.

Lawmakers in Congress have been debating the next phase of funding for Ukraine for months. Last week, the Senate voted to advance a $95.3 billion foreign aid bill, including $60 billion in support for Ukraine. But it’s unclear what fate the bill will have in the House; House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters Tuesday that he “absolutely” has no intention of bringing it to the floor for a vote.

“Right now we’re dealing with the appropriations process, we have an immediate deadline and that’s where the focus is right now in the House,” he said.

The millions of dollars the Army has spent this fiscal year to keep the wheels going in Europe fall into three main categories, another official explained: contracting, travel and transportation and supplies.

These include logistical requirements; Main equipment including food tent; And supplies such as oil and spare parts not only for the Ukrainians but also for the American troops training them. So far in fiscal year 2024, the Army has spent $39.7 million on ground transportation, a top Army official told CNN.

While some of the costs the Army incurs could be offset by the supplemental spending bill being debated on Capitol Hill, it’s also important to the service that Congress approves the fiscal year 2024 budget. Last month, lawmakers passed a short-term funding bill. The government will remain open until early March. And it’s not just about the Army; National Guard Bureau chief Gen. Daniel Hawkson told reporters that if the United States wants to train more Ukrainian F-16 pilots, the agency will eventually need more resources.

“We have the resources to continue the training that has already begun…and we expect all of those people to complete it later this year,” Hawkenson said. “And then if we decide to increase that, we’ll obviously need resources to train additional pilots and ground support personnel.”

In a briefing earlier this month, Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh raised the lack of a 2024 budget and said the Pentagon is “wasting critical time.”

“We are now in our fifth month of this fiscal year and DOD is still… operating under our third continuing resolution. It threatens our national security and prevents the department from modernizing because we are limited to current funding levels. ” Singh said. “We ask that Congress immediately approve our base budget and our supplemental request.”

And the Army’s second-ranking official warned that the delay in funding has broader consequences than ultimately disrupting training or aid to Ukraine.

“Everything is interconnected,” the official said. “And what we’re doing in one place affects us everywhere. We let these things go. Don’t you think China is looking in the Pacific? Don’t you think it’s going to have a direct impact in the Pacific? . . . Russia certainly. watching.” .

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