The Pentagon could need more than the extra $5 billion it already asked Congress to approve if its mission supporting the Ukrainian military with weapons and equipment and helping secure NATO’s border in Eastern Europe continues, a top defense official said.
“I do believe that we will probably need additional funding at DOD for this,” Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord said Wednesday at the McAleese and Associates defense programs conference in Washington.
The $5 billion already requested by the Pentagon is for deploying tens of thousands of U.S. forces to Europe, McCord said.
“If the secretary [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin] orders more deployments or extends deployments, our costs will start to go up above what we projected,” McCord said. “If they don’t go up a lot, obviously, we have some other tools to deal with that via reprogrammings.”
If the troop numbers “go up a lot, then we would probably come back” and ask for more money from Congress, McCord said.
“We feel good about where we are right now, but it’s hard to predict if we will need any more troops,” he said.
Congress still hasn’t approved a Pentagon budget for 2022, despite being nearly six months into the fiscal year. Lawmakers are reportedly close to approving a full-year budget and additional money for Ukraine. The measure includes $782 billion in defense funding, an increase of $42 billion, which some say is excessive.
“Given how much excess spending is already in the budget, there is no need to increase Pentagon outlays in response to developments in Ukraine,” said Bill Hartung, senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. “The current budget can accommodate security assistance to Ukraine and the movement of some personnel to NATO’s eastern flank without further increases.”
The Biden administration still hasn’t sent a fiscal 2023 budget request to Congress. Lawmakers and analysts are expecting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to drive up defense spending in the United States and across NATO.
“One thing that’s so encouraging here is you’re seeing so many NATO allies step up across the board,” McCord said. “So this is not: ‘U.S. to do everything while everybody stands around and watches.'”
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