Ukraine War Sparks Demand More Billions in Pentagon Funding

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The US response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is expected to cost billions of dollars, with the Biden administration immediately asking Congress for more Pentagon funding and already talking about a defense budget boost next year.

The White House on Thursday asked Congress for $10 billion to respond to the war in Ukraine, including $4.8 billion for the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, the Democratic chair of the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday there was “no doubt” the invasion in fiscal 2023 will mean a larger defense budget than previously anticipated.

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“Clearly, it has to be bigger than we thought it would be,” said Adam Smith, D-Wash., chairman at an event hosted by conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine fundamentally changed our national security posture and our defense posture. It has made them more complicated and expensive.”

The US military is deploying 14,000 troops to Eastern Europe to bolster the defenses of NATO allies who fear Moscow will push further west after Ukraine.

The Pentagon has also shipped hundreds of millions of dollars worth of arms to Ukraine in recent months, including a $350 million package approved by President Joe Biden last week.

Thursday’s White House request for emergency funding from the Pentagon includes $1.8 billion to cover the cost of deploying the troops.

The White House also requested $1.75 billion to replenish US arms stockpiles being sent to Ukraine, including the recent $350 million package, a $200 million package approved in January and 1, $2 billion for future deliveries.

The government also wants $1.25 billion for “accelerated cyber capabilities, weapon system upgrades, increased intelligence support and classified programs.”

Legislators in both parties support Ukraine’s funding. But the White House coupled the request with a demand for $22.5 billion for ongoing COVID-19 response efforts, which Republicans are skeptical about, which could complicate the Ukraine aid passage.

Still, Congress leaders said they expect funding for Ukraine to be included in a broader spending bill that Congress must pass next week to keep the government open beyond March 11, when current funding expires.

“Right now, the fastest way for us to get the Ukrainian money is when we have it for this legislation,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Amid discussions about emergency funding for Ukraine, lawmakers are still working to finalize regular funding for the Pentagon and the rest of the federal government for fiscal 2022, almost six months into the fiscal year.

As work on FY2022 is ongoing, the administration has not yet released a budget proposal for FY2023. But reports have shown that before the war in Ukraine, the government was eyeing more than $770 billion for the Pentagon.

On Thursday, Smith said he hasn’t committed to a specific number he believes the defense budget for fiscal year 2023 should be now that war has broken out. But nodding to his own skepticism about inflating defense budgets, Smith said he now “sees no way to argue against an increase.”

“The decision for Russia to invade Ukraine changes it, and it will increase,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

— Rebecca Kheel can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

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