WASHINGTON — The US will dispatch another $625 million in military aid to Ukraine from its own stocks a day after President Biden sought to boost the American defense stockpile after sending more than 20 such packages over the past year.
The latest shipment will include four High Mobility Artillery Rocket systems (HIMARS), the Pentagon said Tuesday. Senior defense officials have said the rocket launchers’ high-precision capabilities have contributed to Kyiv’s recent battlefield gains.
The package will also include 16 155mm howitzers, 75,000 accompanying artillery rounds and an additional 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds; 1,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine Systems; 16 105mm howitzers; 30,000 120mm mortar rounds; 200 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles; 200,000 rounds of small arms ammunition and Claymore anti-personnel munitions.
The shipment is the 22nd sent to Ukraine under the so-called Presidential Drawdown Authority since August of last year. In fiscal year 2022, which began on Oct. 1, 2021, and ended Saturday, Biden ordered more than $8 billion in military equipment and weapons for Ukraine.
Other funding, such as the $1.1 billion package announced Sept. 28, have come through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which allows Washington to purchase and procure weapons and other military capabilities for Kyiv rather than sending items from the Pentagon’s stocks.
USAI packages take longer to deliver to Ukraine given the time it takes to purchase and build new weapons. Drawdown packages, by contrast, typically take just four days to be sourced and sent to Europe, Pentagon officials have said.
The Defense Department has not revealed the specific amount of weapons and military equipment remaining in its stocks, but on Monday, Biden gave the OK to boost defense production and acquisition.
In a memorandum to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Biden enacted a provision of the Defense Production Act of 1950 that lets the administration guarantee private-sector loans “for the purpose of expanding and accelerating the domestic production capability of critical weapons and equipment needed for national defense.”
“I hereby determine … that action is necessary to increase the production capacity of material critical to support the defense against adversarial aggression and that a shortfall in this area would severely impair national defense capability,” Biden wrote in the memo.
The action is meant to “reduce current or projected shortfalls of industrial resources, critical technology items, or essential materials needed for national defense purposes,” according to the act. The loans must cover efforts “necessary to create, maintain, expedite, expand, protect or restore production and deliveries or services essential to the national defense.”
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Bill LaPlante on Friday denied there was “a lot of concern about the supplies and individual stockpiles,” but told reporters that the Pentagon and partner nations have been brainstorming how to “get our production lines going — not just going for Ukraine, but also to replenish ourselves and anticipation of the future.”
Previously, LaPlante explained, the US was guilty of “feast or famine” thinking regarding defense production, where “we go into panic mode, we increase production and then when the crises pass, we just go back to minimal production again.”
“The way we’ve traditionally done procurement of munitions in peacetime, where we basically produce the minimal amount … we may have to change that,” he added.
Tuesday’s announcement came after President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “to underscore that the United States will never recognize Russia’s purported annexation of Ukrainian territory” after sham referenda were held in four regions of the country last month.
“President Biden,” the White House said in a readout of the call, “pledged to continue supporting Ukraine as it defends itself from Russian aggression for as long as it takes.”