In Washington, among the pieces of legislation being considered by Congress, which are of interest to Ukraine — and those who realize how critically important Ukraine’s sovereignty and success are to the United States’ own best security interests – are the Fiscal Year 2020 Defense Authorization and Defense Appropriations bills. Both of these bills relate directly to what monies the United States might provide for Ukraine.
The Committees that consider and propose to their respective Chambers (The House and Senate) these two pieces of legislation are the House Committee on Armed Services, the House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
Although sometimes the timing of the actions by these committees gets confused there are two fundamental steps before any legislation is submitted to the President for signature and enactment. First, Congress must authorize an amount that might be appropriated for specific purposes and then, second, Congress must appropriate funds for such purpose(s). And, it should be noted that often the amount appropriated for a specific purpose is not as much as Congress authorized for that purpose. The appropriators have to consider dollar amounts in the context of the entire budget and prioritize.
To date this year two of these committees have acted The House Committee on Appropriations (indeed, out of sequence as the House Armed Services Committee will not mark-up the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act until June 12) and the Senate Committee on Armed Services have acted on their versions of the Defense Authorization Act and the Defense Appropriations legislation.
So, what do we know so far?
The House Committee on Appropriations has acted on its proposed Defense Appropriations Bill, and in its bill the committee would appropriate $250 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
The Senate Committee on Armed Services mark-up of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act, if passed by the Senate, would propose to authorize “up to $300 million for security assistance to Ukraine, of which $100 million is available only for lethal assistance, and adds coastal defense and anti-ship missiles as eligible categories of security assistance.” (My emphasis)
You can see – among other things – that even before all four committees propose their determinations to the respective chambers we have a difference between what the Senate Armed Services Committee would authorize and what the House Appropriations Committee would appropriate.
And, we must remember that once the House and Senate have acted on their respective authorization and appropriations bills, the differences between the two versions will have to be resolved in House-Senate conference committees and those resolutions will have to be submitted to the respective chambers and approved. Once both chambers agree on language the legislation must be submitted to the President for signature and enactment. So, the critical legislative processes have really just begun. There are a number of legislative steps that still must take place before Ukraine will be able to know the amount of defense money that will be available to it in Fiscal Year 2020 once whatever relevant requirements and/or criteria are met.
At the same time it is important to realize that, at least since Russia’s Kerch Strait aggression began, the Department of Defense has been looking at many military issues relating to Russia’s war on Ukraine. These issues include the maritime security situation with Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and the General Staff as part of their routine discussions. How this will play out in terms of equipment requirements remains to be seen. And, delivery of equipment is just but one aspect in creating capability. The U.S. military uses the DOTMLPF-P (Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities plus Policy) construct to think through the integration of weapon systems into the inventory. The same has to happen in Ukraine (which I believe has been problematic). None of this work is flashy like announcing the delivery of a weapons system, but without it then one has not generated capability actually to employ the weapon(s) in a manner that fits into a strategy to defend the country. (And, the whole question of even having a strategy is scary when focusing on Ukraine and Russian aggression.)