A senior Biden administration official told Congress on Tuesday that the Pentagon has not detected any weapons sent to Ukraine have fallen into the wrong hands, responding to a small but outspoken chorus of Republican critics seeking to limit U.S. military aid to Kyiv.
“We don’t see any evidence of diversion in in our reporting,” said Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy. “We think the Ukrainians are using properly what they’ve been given.”
Kahl’s comments to the House Armed Services Committee came in response to questions from lawmakers of both political parties who appear to agree on the need for tougher scrutiny of the tens of billions of dollars and U.S. arms that the administration has provided Ukraine to help fend off Russia’s invasion. After retaking the House majority in January, Republicans in particular have vowed vigorous oversight of the aid program, even as a split calcifies within the GOP over whether to scale back U.S. support.
The hearing features testimony from Kahl; Robert Storch, the Defense Department inspector general; and Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims II, director of operations for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. It’s the first of two scheduled for Tuesday on the subject of Ukraine aid. In the afternoon, the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense is scheduled to hear from Sims and Celeste Wallander, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. That hearing is due to start at 2 p.m.
Pressure builds to step up weapons tracking in Ukraine
While some Republicans continued to question whether assisting the government in Kyiv remains in the United States’ best interests, Tuesday morning’s session often saw committee members from both parties aligning in their assessments that the Biden administration can and should do more to shore up the Ukrainian military.
“Since the beginning, the president has been overly worried, in my view, that giving Ukraine what it needs to win would be too escalatory,” the panel’s chairman, Rep. Mike D. Rogers (R-Ala.), said. “This hesitation has only prolonged the war and driven up the cost in terms of dollars and lives.”
Tuesday’s hearings come about two weeks after Rogers led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Poland and Romania meant to observe how the U.S. military delivers and tracks the weapons it provides to Ukraine. The lawmakers released a joint statement after their trip calling for greater transparency on the issue.
“The American people have every right to know that U.S. military equipment donated to Ukraine is being used for its intended purpose — Ukraine’s fight for national survival,” the lawmakers said. They added that they “came away with a clear understanding of the various safeguards” that have been put in place after a briefing with the American general who oversees the effort, but warned that “should we confirm that any defense articles are siphoned off, diverted, or missing the flow of U.S. equipment would cease to be tenable.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz and other outspoken conservatives have said they want to end U.S. military and financial support for Ukraine, but many mainstream Republicans have rejected that view, joining Democrats in calling on the administration to send long-range missiles, F-16 fighter jets and other weapons that have been held back.