BUDGET MATTERS BUDGET
Why Ukraine Assistance Is U.S. Assistance
On Dec. 14, Congress gave the Defense Department a Christmas present — a 2024 defense bill. However, batteries were not included, as Congress had yet to pass a 2024 budget or the $106 billion supplemental funding package the White House put on its Christmas list months ago.
The emergency funding would provide some $60 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel and $14 billion to counter the surge in illegal border crossings into the United States. The border security provisions were holding up passage, with many Republicans calling for additional immigration reforms before they would agree to the supplemental. Prospects for passage looked dim at the time of writing.
In the meantime, previously appropriated military support for Ukraine is running low — along with enthusiasm from some lawmakers for new appropriations for the nation as the war ground to a stalemate heading into winter.
During a Dec. 7 fireside chat at the Aspen Security Forum, U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron made an aggressive pitch — to a roomful of the converted — for continued U.S. support to Ukraine.
“The biggest beneficiary of Pax Americana was America, and it’s worth making that argument over and over again,” he said.
“The value for the money of what you’ve put in is astounding,” he continued. “What is it? Like maybe 10 percent of your defense budget used by the Ukrainians has destroyed half of Russia’s prewar military assets. Now, if that isn’t a good investment, I don’t know what is.”
Later in the discussion, the moderator referred to a recent American Enterprise Institute analysis in The Washington Post that found 90 percent of the $68 billion in military aid provided so far to Ukraine had been spent in the United States, benefitting U.S. manufacturers and workers.
According to the AEI analysis and article authored by Marc Thiessen, 117 production lines in at least 31 states are manufacturing weapons provided to Ukraine. That does not include smaller items like spare parts or small arms ammo.
“In other words, as happens with foreign military aid, our aid to Ukraine is not only creating American jobs but also reinvigorating our dangerously atrophied defense industrial base,” Thiessen wrote.
Cameron jumped on that point.
“Ultimately, lots of our constituents and members of the public live in places — whether in the United Kingdom or in the states — where there’s a big industrial base, and there’s jobs, and there’s investment that will go in as a result,” he said.
“I think we’re at a point where we’ve got to stop thinking about how we’re running down our existing stocks to supply Ukraine,” he continued. “We need to think much more about how we build up our stocks. And I think in the more dangerous and insecure world that I was talking about, supply chains, stocks, defense commitments, these things have become more important, and they’re also more important for allies.”
Mark Cancian, senior advisor with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ International Security Program, has also researched the domestic benefit of Ukraine aid.
“Aid to Ukraine is something of a misnomer,” he said in an interview. “It’s really ‘funds as a result of the war in Ukraine’ because a lot of it goes to U.S. agencies,” including the Defense Department, he said.
There are multiple ripple effects of military assistance to Ukraine that benefit the U.S. military and industrial base, he said.
“We sent things that are in our inventory,” Cancian said. “We were sending top-of-the-line equipment, but when we replace it, we replace it with whatever the most current version is.”
For example, the United States is sending M113s and will replace them with new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles, he said.
“And on things like munitions, they have a shelf life,” Cancian said. “The shelf life on a Javelin is 20 years, and we send them Javelins with 18 years on them — they were only going to be around another two years and we would have to get rid of them. Now, we buy a new Javelin, so we restart that clock. So, that helps our inventories also,” he continued.
Thiessen made a similar point, noting Stinger missile production had shut down in 2005 until last year when the Pentagon signed a $625 million contract to restart production to support Ukraine.
“Without our Ukraine resupply effort, the Stinger production line likely would have remained dormant — perhaps until bombs started dropping in a conflict over Taiwan,” he wrote.
Furthermore, NATO allies are donating weapons to Ukraine and buying new weapons from U.S. manufacturers.
“In all, our analysis found that there are at least 13 production lines in 10 states and 11 U.S. cities producing new American-made weapons for NATO allies to replace the equipment they have sent to Ukraine,” Thiessen wrote.
Not to mention the supplemental package includes $3.4 billion for the U.S. submarine industrial base and other funding to build capacity in the defense industrial base that officials say is crucial to deter and defend against Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific, Cancian noted.
One would think members of Congress would be crowing about the benefits to U.S. workers and congressional districts of continued military support for Ukraine, but participants at the forum like Paula Dobriansky, vice chair of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center, expressed dismay that the message isn’t getting out.
“I think that word needs to get out more. … It’s a very significant one,” she said. “[It] matters not only for our security but for that of Ukraine, because you can’t have limitless munitions. You have to have manufacturing. You have to have a strong industrial base. So, it’s in our interest. It’s in Ukraine’s interest. It’s in Europe’s interest. It’s in the global community’s interest.” ND