Potential government shutdown threatens Ukraine training, weapons deliveries

U.S. officials expect a similar situation this year if government appropriations lapse without a new spending agreement in place by the end of the month.

Military training and exercises “required to achieve and maintain operational readiness and to prepare for and carry out such operations” will be exempted, according to guidance issued by the Pentagon last week for the potential shutdown. The Defense Secretary could designate certain activities as essential to national security, according to the guidance.

If the Ukraine training programs are not exempted, they would be forced to grind to a stop. U.S. and western military training has been key to Ukraine’s progress so far in the war; As of Aug. 31, international forces had trained more than 73,000 Ukrainians on Western weapons and tactics, according to DOD spokesperson Col. Martin O’Donnell. American soldiers are currently training approximately 200 Ukrainians to operate and maintain the U.S. Army’s M1 Abrams tank in Germany ahead of its expected arrival on the battlefield this month.

A shutdown could also delay training of Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets, which is slated to begin at a U.S. military base in the coming weeks, Sherwood said.

There is some good news for Ukraine: In the event of a shutdown, funding for the shipments of weapons from DOD’s stockpiles would continue. The Pentagon can still use billions of dollars “recaptured” as part of a “revaluation process” after an accounting error turned up $6.2 billion worth of aid available to send weapons to Ukraine from DOD’s own coffers, Sherwood said.

The execution of the authority available in a presidential drawdown, which DOD has used to send billions of dollars of equipment to Ukraine since the invasion last year, “is not subject to a time limitation” and so “can extend across fiscal years,” Sherwood said.

But the delivery of that equipment could be hindered by furloughs and the suspension of DOD activities due to the shutdown, he said.

Funding for new security assistance to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative would also stop, Sherwood said. This means DOD would not be able to let any new contracts with the defense industry to build weapons for Kyiv.

The news comes as hope is dimming for lawmakers to reach a deal to avert a shutdown after the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. Key factions of the House Republican conference reached a tentative agreement Sunday to keep the government funded through Oct. 31, but the deal is not expected to pass the Senate.

Meanwhile, the fighting in Ukraine shows no signs of letting up. The much-anticipated spring counteroffensive has been slower than anticipated, with both sides experiencing massive casualties.

Still, there are signs Ukraine’s forces are making progress, with Kyiv reporting Monday that its troops had recaptured territory around the eastern city of Bakhmut, including two strategic villages on the southern flank of the city.

Ukraine is expected to receive additional weapons shipments this month, including the first of a planned 31 U.S. Army M1 Abrams tanks, which officials hope will give Kyiv’s forces an edge in the fight.

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