Pentagon is considering new plan to quickly deliver weapons to

Pentagon is considering new plan to quickly deliver weapons to Ukraine

The Biden administration is considering supplying Ukraine with much-needed arms and ammunition from the Pentagon's stockpile, even as the administration is running out of money to replace that ammunition, according to two U.S. officials and a senior lawmaker.

Such a move would be a short-term measure to tide over Ukraine's armed forces until Congress breaks a months-long impasse and approves a larger military aid package for the country, the officials said.

But in considering whether to reuse the Pentagon's stockpile, the administration is weighing both the political risks and questions about U.S. military readiness.

“I know that’s on the table,” Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in an interview. Mr. Reed, who recently returned from a trip to Ukraine, said he would support such a stopgap measure to allow “incremental uses to save time.”

The United States has provided around $44.2 billion in military aid to Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion two years ago.

About half of this amount was transferred under the so-called “President Drawdown Authority”. This allows the government to immediately transfer Pentagon stockpiles to Ukraine, rather than having to wait several months or years for defense contractors to produce weapons under new contracts. The last delivery was in December.

The government still has congressional authority to withdraw about $4 billion in weapons and ammunition. But in December, a separate fund that replenished U.S. munitions supplies to Ukraine was exhausted. Pentagon and White House officials have since said they are unwilling to risk the U.S. military's willingness to draw on Defense Department supplies without being able to replace them.

This mindset is changing, particularly due to Ukraine's increasingly dire situation on the battlefield. Western officials and analysts say Ukrainian ground forces are running out of artillery, anti-aircraft weapons and other ammunition because they are manned and outgunned, and are perhaps in their most precarious situation since the early months of the war.

In mid-February, Ukraine withdrew from the eastern city of Avdiivka, the country's first major battlefield loss since the fall of Bakhmut last year. The Biden administration blamed the withdrawal on Congress's failure to provide additional money to support Kyiv's war effort.

The Senate passed an emergency aid bill that includes $60.1 billion for Ukraine. But the measure's fate is uncertain in the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson has indicated he has no intention of voting on it.

Some officials worry that reducing the Defense Department's stockpile would take pressure off Congress to take action on the longer-term aid package.

It would also expose the administration to criticism from Republican opponents of Ukraine aid that such a move without increasing Pentagon stockpiles would harm the United States at a time of hostilities in the Middle East and rising tensions with China.

At least for now, the government is not publicly discussing the drawdown option, which CNN previously reported. Instead, it is pushing the $60.1 billion aid bill.

“We are focused on urging the House of Representatives to pass the national security amendment as quickly as possible,” Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in response to questions from The New York Times. “Ukraine needs the full resources of this package, and Speaker Johnson should vote on it where it would be passed overwhelmingly, as there is no other way to fully meet Ukraine’s needs.”

Military officials say they are ready to deliver artillery ammunition, interceptors and other weapons to Ukraine as soon as they get the green light.

“We're still meeting every day and still tracking everything we need to ship once it's approved,” Lt. Gen. Leonard J. Kosinski, the military's Joint Staff logistics director, said at a conference on Ukraine on Wednesday.