Pentagon warns a government shutdown could disrupt US military aid to Ukraine

An M1A1 Abrams tank during a training exercise at Bemowo Piskie, Poland, Nov. 25, 2022. - Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Foster/US Army National Guard

US military aid and training for Ukrainian forces could be disrupted in the event of a US government shutdown, a Pentagon spokesperson warned on Tuesday.

The Pentagon will still be able to access equipment from its own stockpiles, which is where the majority of equipment sent to Ukraine comes from, in the event of a shutdown, given that the department still has billions of dollars’ worth of funding remaining under the Presidential Drawdown Authority.

But the delivery of that equipment, as well as the US’ ongoing training of Ukrainian forces, “could be impacted by furloughs of personnel and DoD’s suspension” of all activities deemed not essential to US national security in the event of a shutdown, Pentagon spokesperson Chris Sherwood said Tuesday.

Any impact on US support would come at a sensitive time in the conflict with Ukrainian troops in the midst of a critical counteroffensive against Russia.

Politico first reported on Sherwood’s comments.

A shutdown could also impact the delivery and execution of aid provided under another program, known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which has funded the production of key equipment like Abrams tanks and training programs like F-16 pilot instruction. The US is set to begin delivering 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine in the coming weeks and expects to begin providing Ukrainian pilots with F-16-related language training “soon,” Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Charlie Dietz said on Monday.

“Work or delivery of any equipment funded on previous USAI notifications such as F-16 pilot training would continue, but execution could be impacted by furloughs and DoD’s suspension of non-excepted activities,” Sherwood said.

The Pentagon would also not be able to ink any new contracts with defense companies to produce more equipment under USAI in the event of a shutdown.

“The Department has notified all available USAI funding, so no new USAI notifications can occur until additional appropriations are enacted,” Sherwood said.

The Pentagon issued guidance last week on how the US military will continue to operate in the event of a shutdown, and while missions and functions not deemed critical to US national security will halt, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin can “at any time” make exceptions to that policy.

The US government appears to be barreling toward a shutdown, as Democratic and Republican lawmakers have acknowledged that there will not be enough time before the September 30 deadline for either chamber to pass all 12 appropriations bills. Instead, the House and Senate will have to find a short-term fix to allow them more time to negotiate, but it is unclear whether they will be able to do that.

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