WASHINGTON — The Pentagon may have to ask Congress for additional money to support Ukraine’s battle against Russia’s invasion, including to replenish America’s arsenal for weapons sent to Kyiv, officials said.
Rolling out the Defense Department’s $773 billion request for fiscal 2023, Pentagon leaders said Monday the budget was finalized before the invasion so it has no specific money for the war. Congress approved a $13.5 billion emergency funding package in early March.
The leaders said it was too early to predict how quickly Ukrainian forces will use up the weapons and ammunition already being provided, and how much the U.S. will need to replace what it sends to Ukraine, such as Stinger and Javelin missiles or body armor and other equipment.
“We’ll have to look at this again, probably in the summer, to be prepared for some of the more difficult options,” said Pentagon comptroller Michael McCord. “In the initial phases, at least, obviously we have been running through that drawdown at a fairly high rate. So, were that to continue, yes, we probably would need to address that again in the future.”
Despite the war in Europe, McCord said the U.S. still views China as America’s top challenge.
“We did not feel that what’s happening today altered the picture that China is the No. 1 issue to keep our eye on,” he said. “Obviously, you can draw your own conclusions about Russia’s performance on the battlefield.”
As the war enters its second month, the U.S. has been sending troops, aircraft and other weapons to NATO’s eastern flank, where nations worry they may be Russia’s next targets. The Pentagon said the budget recognizes that Russia is an “acute threat,” and the totals include more than $5 billion to provide support to European allies and increase America’s ability to work with them.
The budget also invests heavily in high-tech weapons and capabilities needed to counter China, Russia and other adversaries. The programs range from hypersonic missiles and artificial intelligence to cyber warfare and space-based missile warning and defense systems.
The 2023 budget plan includes a 4.6% pay hike for the military and for Defense Department civilians — the largest raise in 20 years. And it provides $479 million to expand sexual assault prevention, treatment and judicial programs, including the hiring of about 2,000 personnel, including counselors and prosecutors.
The department also is seeking $1 billion to continue efforts to shut down the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii that leaked petroleum into Pearl Harbor’s tap water. The money is in addition to $1 billion already allocated, and will help pay for remediation of the site, ongoing needs of the affected families, litigation costs and the development of alternative fuel locations for the U.S. military in the region.
Nearly 6,000 people, mostly those living in military housing at or near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam were sickened, seeking treatment for nausea, headaches, rashes and other ailments. And 4,000 military families were forced out of their homes.
The budget includes $34.4 billion to accelerate modernization of the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal, largely following the path set by the Obama administration and continued by former President Donald Trump.
One of the few changes was a decision by the Biden administration to eliminate plans for a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile. That program, started by Trump and criticized by many Democrats as overkill, was in the early stages of research and development.
Other cuts are proposed in the budget including the decommissioning of several ships, a reduction in the number of F-35 fighter jets purchased in 2023 compared with earlier plans, and an effort to phase out the Air Force’s A-10 attack aircraft. Congress has repeatedly overruled efforts to cut the A-10 in the past.