A timeline of enacting $49 billion in military aid for Ukraine
Speaking Security Newsletter | Note n°175 | 30 September 2022
The short-term spending bill the House passed today (and the Senate yesterday) funds the government through December 16, narrowly avoiding a shutdown. This stopgap bill buys Congress time to determine spending levels for fiscal year 2023.
It does more than that, though. Attached to this must-pass bill is $12.35 billion in supplemental funding for Ukraine (and zero dollars for COVID). This includes $7.81 billion in military aid, $647,100,000 more than Biden requested.
The funding is to “meet immediate needs” in the conflict, Biden said. But a lot of the matériel funded by the bill won’t end up in Ukraine for months or even years. The $3 billion aid package announced last month, for example (which was funded by a previous supplemental funding bill), purchases weapons through new contracts with US weapons firms (as do billions of dollars in today’s bill). Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said it was proof of US commitment to Ukraine for the “long haul” and that many of the weapons won’t contribute to “today’s fight” but will instead make an impact in the “years to come.”
That doesn’t augur well for the conflict’s duration. That was one of the concerns I expressed to The Intercept for this article earlier this month. The volume and type of US military aid suggests endless war much more than it does an imminent diplomatic resolution. All told, we’re now up to $48.9 billion enacted since Russia’s invasion, or an average of about $225 million/day.
*Military aid refers to aid not just to Ukraine but to other nearby states, too (bill language frequently lumps them together); funds to replenish US stocks following weapons transfers to those states (this bill provides $1.5 billion for that purpose); operational expenses for delivering matériel, providing services like advising and training, and other programming costs; and US personnel costs related to transportation, housing, bonus pay, etc.
Why do I see different numbers reported in different places?
Really getting into the weeds, here, so feel free to skip this part.
Provided that those sources abide by the same time range (the start of Russian invasion on February 24 until now), if those numbers are smaller, they might be referring either to (a) the amount of military aid the US committed to Ukraine—this figure should be around $16.2B since the invasion—or (b) the value of the aid actually delivered to the country (I don’t know this number, and judging by the reporting requirements in the latest bill, much of Congress doesn’t know either).
Why are (a) and (b) smaller? For (a), there’s a lag time from when funds are appropriated by Congress to when the Pentagon puts together and announces the aid packages. The number for (b) will be smaller than (a) because it’ll be months or even years by the time many of these weapons sniff real combat. This conflict is past the stage where the US is just dumping weapons from its own stockpiles—that still happens, but more and more often, product orders are placed with US weapons companies that then have to build them.
Conversely, if you see numbers larger than the figure I’ve produced above, you might be looking at total aid—again, I’m just looking at military aid and not economic or humanitarian funding—or the source is double-counting some funding items, which is easy to do: consider this Pentagon announcement of military aid and this one. Provided that you’re trying to count the same thing I am, you wouldn’t count the second because it draws from funds appropriated by a previously-passed supplemental spending bill. But you would count the first one as new spending: Real money isn’t appropriated for presidential drawdowns until the president actually orders one (this authority is usually capped at $100 million annually; the bill passed today moves the ceiling up to $3.7 billion for FY2023. The ceiling was also bumped up a couple times for FY2022—which Biden capitalized on—that’s why you see so many drawdowns listed in the table above).