For Israelis and Ukrainians fighting a war and looking to Washington to find a way to de-couple proposed US national security emergency spending from a politically-explosive domestic immigration bill, the future of American military assistance was still murky and worrying.
But the details of the Washington plan to commit resources to national security emergencies overseas, particularly the Israeli war against Hamas and Ukraine’s war against Russia, became a lot clearer on Wednesday, with the publishing of the draft bill that has been argued about for months, was uploaded to the internet.
For anyone unwilling to wade through the 370 pages of often dense language that makes up the H.R. 815 bill, but interested in the foreign policy in the legislation, Kyiv Post can help.
Only 62 pages are devoted to paying for emergency US spending to support the wars in Israel and Ukraine, and rising security tensions around Taiwan. The rest is taken up by US domestic law.
The bill is overwhelmingly concerned with border regulations and migration rules. US national security and things like lethal assistance to Israel and Ukraine, or assistance to Gaza civilians, or more funding to the US Space Force for better monitoring of China’s navy, seem as an afterthought.
The headline number of $118 billion, puts all the strands of the bill together and, while not quite pocket change by D.C. standards, it’s a drop in the ocean compared with the total $6.3 trillion US national budget.
Just under two percent of everything US taxpayers will fund in FY 2024, will go to its response to two wars and monitoring its potential military rival in Beijing. Ukraine’s share of the emergency spending package is slightly more than $60 billion, compared with some of the big ticket items in the US Federal budget such as: the American military ($751 billion), Social Security ($1.2 trillion), and Medicare/Medicade ($1.3 trillion). US government financing to student loan programs of all types for 2024, $482 billion, is more than six times the size of proposed US emergency security assistance to Ukraine, and seventeen times the value of that proposed for Israel and Gaza combined.
The current block on US military assistance to Ukraine has already affected Ukraine’s combat capability. The major gaps are felt in US produced high-cost, high-tech, precision-guided weapons that Ukraine has used with great effect, particularly Patriot long-range interceptor missiles, Stinger anti-aircraft and Javelin anti-tank missiles, and precision-guided rockets for the HIMARS and M270 artillery systems. Equally critical are large-scale deliveries of 155mm artillery ammunition to break up massed ground attacks.
In the sector of the front where Russian forces are currently making the most progress, the east Ukrainian sector of Avdiivka, Kremlin bombers have operated almost with impunity for more than a month. Ukrainian defenders have relied on hobby drones converted to carry grenades to engage Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers, because of artillery ammunition shortages. This limitation on the ability to counter Moscow’s forces has seen a spike in casualties on the front lines.
Of the $60 billion earmarked for Ukraine, $13.7 billion are allotted to the Ukraine Security Initiative, allowing the US Defense Secretary to use US taxpayer money to buy military materials and goods, almost without exception from US weapons manufacturers, and transfer them to Kyiv. Another $13.4 billion is set aside for “replacement through new procurement or repair of existing, unserviceable equipment,” such as US-made tanks, armored personnel carriers, missile launchers and artillery operated by Ukrainian soldiers, and damaged or worn out in combat.
A relatively modest $1.6 billion of US taxpayer largesse - a giant sum by Ukrainian standards - is transferred directly to the Ukrainian military. From the Kyiv perspective probably the single most critically-needed category is $5.6 billion for more ammunition.
The Ukrainian government would receive $7.89 billion for budget support, but none of that may go to pensions, and $50 million must be for food security, the draft bill says. A maximum $21 billion may be used to help Ukraine with loans and fiscal planning.
Beyond assistance to Ukraine, and outside the $60 billion earmarked directly for Kyiv, the bill plans substantial bumps to US Federal programs and agencies needing to work harder and expend more resources, as part of a US response to the wars in Israel and Ukraine.
Within the US military, the Marines Corps budget would receive a $212 million uplift, the Navy $319 million and the Air force around $3.4 billion, for additional resources needed to “respond to the situation in Ukraine”. An additional $5.2 billion, is added to overall Department of Defense (DoD) procurement, a term usually meaning new equipment purchases, for US units or agencies, “to respond to the situation in Ukraine and Israel.”
The bill attaches complex riders obliging the executive branch to account to Congress how the emergency funding is being spent, and to what effect. Within 45 days of the bill’s passage, as stated in the bill, the government must inform Congressional Committees on a Ukraine victory strategy, how it’s progressing, and how US national security is impacted.
This mandatory briefing to Congress should give a detailed breakdown by assistance areas, such as in the delivery of separate reports to elected officials of operational progress, in R&D, in humanitarian assistance, and in direct military hardware transfers.
By law, the Secretaries of State and Defense, as well and Commander US European Command must brief relevant Congressional committees in classified format. The Joint Chiefs will give a classified assessment as well. The bill stipulates that the US strategy for Ukraine will be reviewed and updated not less than quarterly.
In respect of Israel, the bill stipulates that the Secretary of State must deliver a report to the legislature once on the situation with hostages in Gaza, but there is no obligation to further brief Congress after that.
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