Portman Announces the Omnibus Appropriations Bill Includes Funding to Improve Military Assistance to Ukraine
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, today announced that the Omnibus Appropriations bill before the Senate includes key elements of his Ukraine security assistance amendment. The amendments previously passed the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report for Fiscal Year 2016. Portman originally introduced his amendment in June as part of his efforts to provide targeted and effective military assistance to Ukraine as it struggles to defend itself against Russian aggression.
“As Russian aggression continues in eastern Ukraine, NATO and the U.S. must provide sustained economic, political, and military support to enable Ukraine to secure a democratic future,” Portman stated. “These provisions will help to ensure the U.S. is providing enough resources and equipment to allow Ukraine to defend itself.
“At a time when the United States faces increasing dangers, it is critically important that we provide our military with the resources and training necessary to fulfill a range of national security missions, from degrading and destroying Islamic extremism to deterring Russian aggression against our allies in Europe, to supporting the sovereignty of U.S. allies in the South China Sea. I'm pleased that this legislation provides a higher level of defense spending and I will continue to work with my colleagues both on the Homeland Security Committee and in Congress to protect Americans from these continued threats.”
As modified by Portman’s amendment and negotiations with the House of Representatives, the omnibus provides $300 million in security assistance for Ukraine and directs the Secretary of Defense to provide critical capabilities the Ukrainians need most, including real-time intelligence, medium and long-range counter-artillery radars, defensive lethal assistance such as anti-tank weapons, UAVs, secure communications, and training to develop key combat, planning, and support capabilities. $50 million is reserved exclusively for the most urgent capabilities the Ukrainians need and have requested: defensive lethal assistance and counter-artillery radars.
Key elements of the Portman amendment included in the Omnibus:
- Authorizing Ukraine to lease critical military capabilities from the United States. A big obstacle blocking Ukraine from obtaining access to crucial military capabilities, particularly intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms like UAVs, has been a lack of clarity over whether Ukraine can lease such capabilities from U.S. defense contractors. Clearly establishes that military equipment leases are authorized under U.S. security assistance programs for Ukraine, allowing Ukraine to gain the benefits of high-end U.S. military technology, while alleviating legitimate security concerns over this technology falling into the wrong hands.
- Authorizing medium and long-range counter-artillery radars. To date, the United States has only provided short-range Light Counter Mortar Radars that are inadequate for providing early warning and target acquisition against Russia’s medium and long-range artillery systems that form the bulk of the artillery used in Ukraine. Artillery accounts for approximately 85% of all casualties in the conflict. Providing longer-range counter-artillery systems to Ukraine will save lives.
- Incentivizing the U.S. government to draw from U.S. stockpiles in order to provide critical defense items. Some military systems Ukraine badly needs are not readily available and are difficult to procure. While the original language established important authority to draw from U.S. stockpiles, it would have required funds to be taken from other DoD priorities to pay for the replacement of any equipment taken from the stockpile. This could have inadvertently prevented DoD from using this new authority effectively, as various bureaucratic interests would be reluctant to share their piece of the budget pie with other programs. The changes adopted from the Portman amendment will create greater flexibility by allowing the U.S. government to use money allocated for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to pay for any necessary replacement items, improving the implementation of this policy and allowing for shorter delivery timelines and greater access to the types of equipment Ukraine needs to defend itself.
Portman visited Ukraine in April as well as during last year’s presidential elections. He has met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as well as top U.S. and Ukrainian military officials to discuss the best way to deal with continued Russian aggression.