By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Sept. 09, 2022) -- Following Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the United States embarked on a long-term commitment to provide Ukraine with the tools and equipment it needs to defend its sovereignty. Since that time, more than $14.5 billion in assistance has been committed to Ukraine.
Some of the assistance provided has been new and purchased on contract from defense industry manufacturers as a part of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. But much of the equipment, some $12.5 billion worth, has been provided as part of presidential drawdown authority. That means things such as Javelin and Stinger missiles, HIMARS rocket launcher systems, and Switchblade unmanned aerial systems, for instance, have been pulled directly from existing U.S. military inventory to be sent overseas.
Because so much gear has been pulled from U.S. military units, that equipment must now be replaced in order to sustain America's own readiness, and the Defense Department has already contracted with an array of manufacturers to give back to military units what was taken from them in order to support Ukraine.
"As we work with industry to accelerate production on both replenishment systems and direct procurements under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative or USAI, we're using a number of tools to get the funding moving, and the contracting happening quickly," Bill LaPlante, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said during a briefing today at the Pentagon.
Already, about $1.2 billion in contracts are underway to replenish U.S. military stocks for weapons sent to Ukraine, LaPlante said. That includes about $352 million in funding for replacement Javelin missiles, $624 million for replacement Stinger missiles, and $33 million for replacement HIMARS systems.
Another $1.2 billion in contracts are underway now for equipment promised to Ukraine under USAI, including for things like 155mm ammunition, Switchblade unmanned aerial systems, radar systems and tactical vehicles.
The Department is expediting these efforts by using undefinitized contracting actions, or UCAs, to get industry working on contracts before they are definitized, LaPlante said.
"You can put a UCA together within a week, and we're doing that," he said. "We're also making use of indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts, or IDIQ. If you have IDIQs, and we have many of them, what you can do is just add task orders to them very quickly to get equipment on contract."
In late April, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III participated in the first meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group where leaders from about 40 nations met to discuss both current and future efforts to provide support for Ukraine and to help Ukraine maintain its sovereignty going forward. Today, the contact group includes about 50 nations, and the group concluded its fifth meeting just yesterday in Germany.
Now, as a kind of offshoot of the contact group, LaPlante said he will meet Sept. 28 with the national armaments directors from other contact group nations to discuss how the global defense industrial base can continue to support Ukraine both now and into the future.
"Right now we have three kind of themes -- but this will evolve as we build the agenda," LaPlante said. "The first is comparing notes and giving situation reports on ramping up production of key capabilities. We have a lot to learn from each other."
Also on the agenda is developing a global picture of the defense supply chain, he said.
"[This includes] what are we seeing in the supply chain ... the typical things in the supply chain are microelectronics and the obsolescence of them, things like ball bearings even, and solid rocket motors [and] other sensors," he said. "We want to compare notes on what people are seeing in their supply chain and what answers people have had."
Finally, he said, a topic of discussion will be to build both interoperability between systems and also to increase interchangeability as well. "That is the ability for us to take a munition from one country and use it in a weapons system of another, and vice versa.
Just yesterday, the Defense Department announced a new presidential drawdown of security assistance valued at up to $675 million. The package includes, among other things, more munitions for HIMARS, four 105mm Howitzers with 36,000 accompanying rounds, additional high-speed anti-radiation missiles, and 1.5 million rounds of small arms ammunition, said Sasha Baker, the deputy under secretary of defense for policy.
"This represents the 20th drawdown package we've provided to Ukraine," said Baker. "It includes equipment ... the Ukrainians have already demonstrated, in many cases, that they can use to great effect."
The latest security assistance package brings the total amount of U.S. assistance to Ukraine since the February invasion to more than $14.5 million, Baker said.
"We think this underscores our unwavering support for Ukraine as it continues to defend its sovereignty in the face of Russian aggression," Baker said. "We believe, at the end of the day, that Russia's efforts have not succeeded and will not succeed. And when it comes to helping Ukraine to defend itself, and when it comes to making sure that there is significant pressure on Russia to end this conflict, [that requires] making sure that our own alliance is as strong and as resolute as it can be to deter Russian aggression."
That unity of effort and resolve, Baker said, was evident in the most recent meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, and has been evident all along as demonstrated by the Ukrainian people.