By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (April 14, 2022) -- Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Feb. 24, the U.S. government has provided $2.6 billion in security assistance to the Ukrainians to help them regain and defend their sovereignty. Much of what has been sent has come straight out of U.S. military stockpiles. Nevertheless, the U.S. military's own readiness has not been affected by having sent that gear overseas, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby during a briefing today.
"I can assure you that we are not at the point where our inventories of these systems have ... or will imminently affect our readiness," Kirby said. "We're comfortable that our stocks are in keeping with our readiness needs. But we obviously know that, as these packages go on, and as the need continues inside Ukraine, we want to lead turn. ... We want to be ahead of the bow wave on that and not get to a point where it becomes a readiness issue."
Yesterday, the Defense Department announced an additional $800 million security assistance "drawdown" package to support Ukraine. A drawdown package allows the president, in certain circumstances, to withdraw existing weapons, ammunitions and material from U.S. military stocks to provide to other nations.
The support package announced yesterday is the seventh security assistance drawdown package that has been sent to Ukraine.
During a briefing yesterday, Kirby said Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks met with leaders of U.S. defense contractors to discuss production of the very kinds of systems, equipment and weapons the U.S. is sending to Ukraine.
"We wanted to make sure that we had a good, honest, candid discussion with these CEOs about the systems that they're producing; about the rate at which they're being produced; about the possibility for accelerating some of those production lines and expanding them based on the heavy draw on our inventory to support Ukraine," Kirby said.
While Kirby said the focus of Wednesday's meeting with defense contractor leadership was heavily focused on their ability to produce the very kinds of things that are being sent over to Ukraine, he also said the meeting was part of a regularly occurring series. For instance, there was a similar meeting focused on hypersonic technologies held several months ago.
At yesterday's meeting, Kirby said, defense contractors such as Boeing, L3-Harris, Raytheon, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Huntington-Ingalls, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman were all represented.
"It was a good discussion," Kirby said. "We were very grateful ... for their willingness to come on in and have this discussion."
So far, Kirby said, the Defense Department has not seen any efforts by Russia to interdict the security assistance being sent to Ukraine, but the U.S. remains cautious about its ability to provide the Ukrainians with what they need.
"We don't take ... any movement of weapons and systems going into Ukraine for granted," he said. "That's why we're very careful about how much information we put out there about it. That's why ... we are careful to modulate that activity on any given day. We're not taking it for granted."
The Ukrainians are not taking the provided weapons and systems for granted, and they are moving the supplies inside their country, said Kirby.
According to a Defense Department fact sheet published today, as of April 14, the U.S. has provided or committed to provide Ukraine, more than 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems; 5,500 Javelin anti-armor systems; 700 Switchblade tactical unmanned aerial systems; 7,000 small arms; 50,000,000 rounds of ammunition; and 18 155mm Howitzers with 40,000 155mm artillery rounds; 16 Mi-17 helicopters; hundreds of armored Humvee vehicles and 200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers.