- Republican lawmakers in the Senate and House have lashed out at the Biden administration for a $6.2 billion accounting error at the Pentagon, which revealed that it used replacement costs rather than net book value when measuring the cost of U.S. weapons shipped to Ukraine.
- “By using creative accounting to conceal the actual cost of supporting Ukraine, you appear to be circumventing the American people’s elected representatives,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and five other senators said in a July 10 letter to Defense Secretary Llyod Austin.
- “This is a transparent attempt to bypass Congress for additional funds, while continuing to prioritize Ukraine over more vital U.S. interests, including deterring China in the Pacific,” they said. Hawley and Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, have introduced legislation requiring the Pentagon to use replacement cost when invoking Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the president to provide aid from U.S. military stockpiles.
The House, in a 219 to 210 vote on Friday, passed the $866 billion National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2024. It would provide a 5.2% increase in pay for troops and sharpen audits of Pentagon spending by creating a Special Inspector General for Ukraine Security Assistance.
The bill would also authorize $300 million in military aid for Ukraine, adding to the $113 billion Congress has approved since Russia launched its invasion early last year. The House bill will need to be reconciled with an unfinished version in the Senate.
An increasing share of Americans — including a growing proportion of Republicans — say the U.S. is providing too much aid to Ukraine, according to a Pew Research Center poll released last month.
Forty-four percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say that U.S. assistance is excessive — the highest percentage since the start of Russia’s invasion, Pew said.
“DOD’s recently discovered ‘accounting error’ of $6.2 billion is yet another example of the failure within DOD’s financial management systems, and raises more concerns about DOD’s ability to protect taxpayer funds,” Rep. James Comer, a Kentucky Republican and chair of the Oversight and Accountability Committee, said in a July 7 letter to Austin.
“As demonstrated by previous conflicts the U.S. has engaged in, spending money quickly with little diplomatic strategy has resulted in overspending and high risks of corruption,” Comer and Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., said.
Comer and Grothman, chair of the Subcommittee on National Security, the Border and Foreign Affairs, requested a staff-level briefing by July 21 detailing “what accountability mechanisms are in place within DOD to ensure taxpayer funds are spent properly and similar errors do not occur in the future.”
Pentagon Spokesperson Sabrina Singh said during a briefing on June 20 that the Pentagon identified the accounting mistakes “during the department’s regular oversight of our execution of Presidential Drawdown Authority for Ukraine” in fiscal years 2022 and 2023.
“In a significant number of cases, services used replacement costs rather than net book value, thereby overestimating the value of the equipment draw down from U.S. stocks and provided to Ukraine,” she said.