Biden officials consider providing weapons to Ukraine without an immediate replacement of U.S. stocks or waiting for Congress funds

Biden administration officials gathered at the Pentagon on Tuesday to discuss potential solutions for addressing Ukraine’s pressing demand for artillery and ammunition. Among the options considered were the possibility of utilizing existing U.S. stockpiles without immediate replenishment or waiting for additional funding from Congress. The discussions aimed to identify swift measures to meet Ukraine’s urgent needs, as confirmed by two senior administration officials and a congressional official.

During the meeting, officials held discussions about potential strategies for the Pentagon to replenish Ukraine’s dwindling supply of crucial artillery and ammunition. This need arises despite the current impasse in the White House’s request for additional funding from Congress. It is important to note that no decisions have been finalized at this point, as confirmed by the officials.

There is a growing concern within the administration that Ukraine will soon face a shortage of crucial weaponry. In the coming weeks, they may run out of 155 mm artillery rounds and air defense munitions. This situation has sparked discussions and raised alarm among officials.

Some officials within the administration are not in favor of providing immediate aid to Ukraine as a temporary solution. They are worried that this action could jeopardize ongoing negotiations between the White House and Congress, particularly House Republican leaders, who are working towards securing approximately $60 billion in new aid for Ukraine. Additionally, there are concerns that implementing this idea could deplete the stockpiles of the U.S. military, which are deemed essential for maintaining adequate readiness levels.

After months of prioritizing the protection of stockpiles for military readiness, Pentagon officials are beginning to embrace the idea of taking on some level of risk to maintain Ukraine’s engagement in the conflict.

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“We are prioritizing the urgency of passing the national security supplemental package in the House of Representatives,” emphasized a representative from the White House National Security Council. They further emphasized the importance of providing Ukraine with the comprehensive resources included in the package. The spokesperson also urged Speaker Johnson to promptly bring the package to a vote, emphasizing that it would likely pass overwhelmingly, as there is no alternative way to fully address Ukraine’s needs.”

The Pentagon spokesperson emphasized the importance of Congress passing a supplemental to provide support for Ukraine during this critical period and to ensure the replenishment of our stocks.

The House is anticipated to delay taking action on Ukraine aid until at least late March. However, even if they do proceed, the process is expected to be slow due to the Republican opposition in the House towards a Senate bill that was passed earlier this month.

The Pentagon currently holds approximately $4 billion in congressionally approved Presidential Drawdown Authority funds, allowing them to supply Ukraine with weapons and equipment from U.S. stockpiles. However, there is a lack of approved funding to replenish the depleted stockpiles once the U.S. sends the aid. This poses a dilemma for the Biden administration as they must determine whether it is worth the risk to deplete U.S. stockpiles without any guarantees of replenishment.

According to a congressional official, the concept of utilizing artillery and ammunition from U.S. stockpiles, even without a supplemental, has been under consideration for a few weeks. However, it is regarded as a last resort option when Congress has exhausted all other possibilities. The official emphasized that there is currently a sense of momentum, and if the president were to give approval at this stage, it could potentially undermine the progress being made in Congress and weaken their argument for the immediate need of a supplemental.

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According to two congressional officials, the aim is to secure funding for Ukraine in the third week of March to support the country in its ongoing conflict with Russia. It is anticipated that a vote will take place by the end of March. If the House fails to pass the funding by then, the administration has the option to access ammunition from U.S. stockpiles. However, doing so at this time would be detrimental.

Courtney Kube, a correspondent from the NBC News Investigative Unit, specializes in covering national security and the military.

Carol E. Lee serves as the Washington managing editor.

Julie Tsirkin, a correspondent specializing in Capitol Hill coverage, brings her expertise to the table.

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