As we begin the end of the Fiscal Year and seven months so far of the war between Ukraine and Russia, the White House is hoping Congress will approve a $47.1 billion emergency funding request to push specific programs past the Fiscal Year into October.
There are four main components of this emergency funding request; Ukraine funding, COVID-19 and Monkeypox funding, and the typical funding for natural disasters.
WASHINGTON (AP) — White House asks Congress to provide $13.7B for Ukraine as funds run out, seeks billions more for COVID-19, monkeypox.
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) September 2, 2022
The most significant portion of this funding request is for what seems to be the never-ending pandemic; COVID-19. The $22.4 billion is for various endeavors, including vaccine and test stockpiling and the nebulous category; research and development.
Of the request, the COVID-19 funding is probably the most at risk, given that this past March, Republicans shot down additional funding. However, what is showing signs of continued bipartisan support is what I will focus on today.
Seemingly Endless Support
The White House is asking for and will undoubtedly receive little pushback for another $11.7 billion for Ukraine. Within that request are $7.2 billion for military-related costs and $4.5 billion for direct economic aid to the war-torn country.
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Last month, in addition to the other military equipment we had provided, we announced that we would give Ukraine Scan Eagle surveillance drones, mine-resistant vehicles, anti-armor rounds, and Howitzer weapons.
Are US stocks of 155 mm artillery shells low as a result of deliveries to Ukraine? Senior US military official: "The short answer is 'No'."
— Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) August 29, 2022
That would take the number of times the Pentagon has provided equipment from our own Defense Department stocks to 19 since August of 2021. A rough breakdown of military equipment we have provided, in addition to what we recently announced, is listed below.
- over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles
- over 5,500 Javelin anti-tank missiles
- over 700 Switchblade drones
- 72 tactical vehicles
- 16 Mi-17 helicopters
- hundreds of humvees
- 200 M113 armored personnel carriers
- over 7,000 small arms (think pistols)
- 121 Phoenix Ghost drones
- Laser-guided rocket systems
The above list isn’t even all-encompassing. To put this aid into perspective, over 20 years, we provided the Afghan government with $134 billion.
To further break this down, we gave roughly $6.7 billion a year to the Afghan government if you average that dollar amount out. We are on track to provide ten times the funding support to Ukraine with just as high a risk of fraud, waste, and abuse as was witnessed in Afghanistan.
What Does Victory Mean?
Just as in the never-ending war in Afghanistan, there seems to be some disagreement on what victory looks like in Ukraine between interested parties. Our partners across the pond, the Brits, and our political leaders view victory as what Kiev desires it to be.
All signs from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy point to a complete retake of lost territory, including Crimea. That seems to sit well with his Baltic neighbors, who see only a total defeat of the Russians as a victory.
Hard to know what a total defeat of Russia would look like, given that there doesn’t seem to be any signs of a regime or cultural shift with the Russian government. Perhaps the most tenuous in this trio of players are France and Germany.
Both countries have voiced on numerous occasions the desire for a diplomatic victory that allows Russian President Vladimir Putin to save face. However, as an anonymous western official put it, the war in Ukraine is at a “near operational standstill.”
This standstill could prove to be what Putin is hoping for, as winter is coming, and the energy crisis in Europe is proving to be even worse than in the United States.
Not a holiday in Europe today. German stocks smacked, down almost 3%, and the winter Energy crisis looms.
Escalating an irrelevant regional struggle in Ukraine…not such a great idea! Escalating both sides of a war, even worse idea.
Learn from Europe’s errors, America! pic.twitter.com/IkBMfNZgjx
— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) September 5, 2022
A New Forever War?
The reality could be that we are already anticipating a protracted war, one that perhaps involves greater direct involvement. A less covered story emerged recently of the announcement that President Biden plans to attach a mission name to our support of Ukraine officially.
Suppose you are unfamiliar with what this means. Think Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Desert Storm. As the Wall Street Journal accurately points out:
“The naming of the training and assistance is significant bureaucratically as it typically entails long-term, dedicated funding…”
The last bit of that quote undersells precisely what it means to put a name to an operation regarding defense funding. Once an operation is named, it generally falls under what used to be known as Global War on Terror (GWOT) funding and later transitioned to Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.
As Dan Caldwell, senior advisor to Concerned Veterans of America, points out:
“Establishing a formal, named-mission or military task force specifically for Ukraine could further open the door to moving funding for the war in Ukraine to the Overseas Contingency Operations budget, which is essentially the Pentagon’s slush fund.”
As a former Defense Financial Manager, I can tell you that if you could tie your military funding to OCO dollars, you generally did, as it was well known that Congress would always reimburse you for the expense. It’s as if it was, and more than likely still is, a never-ending pot of money at the end of the defense rainbow.
This would put the U.S. at about $66 billion for Ukraine for 2022 – much more than the yearly budget for Afghanistan pre-Doha. This is also probably not the last request for CY – would anticipate a much bigger ask in lame duck. This $12 billion is to get through the election. https://t.co/AuceRVwyJt
— Dan Caldwell 🇺🇸 (@dandcaldwell) September 2, 2022
Business is Good
It wasn’t that long ago that President Biden claimed he would “turn the Ruble into rubble” in a cute turn of phrase. While catchy, it turned out to be a false promise as the Ruble is stronger now than before the war.
And while broad sanctions on Russian oil are seen in the US and Europe, business is still good with countries like India brokering sweetheart deals with Russia. India purchases Russian oil cheaply, then resells the sanctioned oil to Europe.
It’s not just Russia that appears to profit from their invasion of Ukraine; as usual, defense contractors ought to come out on top.
“Putting a name on an operation is far more significant than merely coming up with a catchy tagline. It confers an intent to provide long-term, sustained, and expensive support to one side of a war that we are not fighting.”
I think the only word that would’ve made the Lt. Colonel’s statement more perfect is the addition of ‘yet’ to the end of it. As Mr. Caldwell states on the move to name the operation officially:
“…one of the primary motivations here – the Pentagon wants a steady stream of funding from a source that Congress has shown a lack of willingness to properly oversee.”
Leave it to the laziness of legislators to not so subtly possibly allow the White House and military-industrial complex to walk us into yet another forever war with no apparent objective.
"There is no chance, no military means, that Ukraine can win this war. We have to be honest about it," said retired US Army Lt. Col. Daniel Davis.😊 pic.twitter.com/sQ4DOpuIxh
— Alexeï (@jeanlol67573289) August 15, 2022
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