According to two knowledgeable U.S. officials, the Biden administration is contemplating using a grant program from the State Department to provide more military assistance to Ukraine while Congress debates over funding for weapons.
Officials at the White House are considering various possibilities in their efforts to secure additional funding for Ukraine. This comes after lawmakers removed funding in a last-minute agreement to prevent a government shutdown. The officials, who were granted anonymity to protect the confidentiality of internal discussions, revealed this information.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden suggested a potential method for securing funding, stating “there is another way we could potentially obtain the funds.” He chose not to elaborate.
A government official stated that the president’s remarks were in regards to the “current funding powers” granted by Congress which would enable the administration to offer extended aid to Ukraine in the event of inaction from Congress.
According to two officials, a potential solution being considered is utilizing foreign military financing. This program, administered by the State Department, offers grants or loans to assist partner nations in acquiring weapons and defense equipment. The focus of this aid would be on countries such as Ukraine that have been affected by Russia’s large-scale invasion.
As of September 21st, the United States still had approximately $650 million left out of the $4.6 billion allocated by Congress for foreign military financing for Ukraine and other countries affected by the situation in Ukraine, as reported by the State Department.
According to the U.S. official, although the U.S. may utilize its financing capabilities to buy weapons, Congress must still approve more funding to assist Ukraine.
A Defense Department official familiar with the discussions stated that the administration may consider requesting Congress to reallocate funds from other areas of the Pentagon budget to aid Ukraine. However, this would need approval from lawmakers.
The spokesperson for the Pentagon stated that they have not yet determined the course of action the department will pursue.
“Reprogramming is always an option for urgent needs. At this time right now, though, to my knowledge, no decision has been made on using reprogramming as a way to support Ukraine security assistance,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder. “We remain committed to working with Congress on the Ukraine supplemental and receiving a full budget.”
Last week, leaders of the Pentagon informed lawmakers that the funds allocated to the department from previous aid packages are almost depleted. In a letter to congressional leaders, Comptroller Mike McCord stated that the Defense Department has utilized the majority of the security assistance funding designated for Ukraine. This means that there are no more funds available for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which is used by the Pentagon to acquire new weaponry and gear for Kyiv. However, there is still $1.6 billion left to replenish U.S. supplies.
Last weekend, Congress approved a temporary funding measure to prevent a government shutdown, but did not include any additional funds for Ukraine. This decision ignored Biden’s request for $24 billion in emergency aid.
Although Biden expressed worries about potential funding shortages for Ukraine, he remained optimistic that a majority of both Democratic and Republican members in the House and Senate would back the funding for the war.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced his intention to collaborate with GOP leader Mitch McConnell in order to pass a substantial aid package for Ukraine. However, its fate remains uncertain in the Republican-controlled House, as a majority of GOP representatives expressed opposition to providing additional funds last week.