Pentagon Says Ukraine Support Would Continue as Part of 'Essential Operations' During Government Shutdown

The military branch says the United States should still be able to fund Ukraine support, even if it can't fund itself.
Pentagon Says Ukraine Support Would Continue as Part of 'Essential Operations' During Government Shutdown
Military aid, delivered as part of the United States' security assistance to Ukraine, is unloaded from a plane at the Boryspil International Airport outside of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 11, 2022. (Serhiy Takhmazov/Reuters)
Ryan Morgan

While the U.S. government could soon shut down without a budget in place, the Pentagon anticipates that it will still be able to provide training and support for Ukrainian military forces currently fighting with Russia.

Department of Defense (DOD) spokesman Chris Sherwood said that Operation Atlantic Resolve—the U.S. military mission that oversees the training and supplying of Ukrainian forces with military weapons and equipment—will continue even if there's a government shutdown, in a statement shared with NTD News.

Mr. Sherwood told Politico last week that a government shutdown could disrupt U.S. efforts in support of the Ukrainian government. The Pentagon has since determined that efforts to support the Ukrainian government would be included among the "essential operations" that the U.S. government would continue even during shutdowns.

"Operation Atlantic Resolve is an excepted activity under a government lapse in appropriations, which is consistent with DOD’s Contingency Plan Guidance For Continuation Of Essential Operations In The Absence Of Available Appropriations," Mr. Sherwood wrote.

It's unclear what led the DOD to change its assessment and determine that support for the Ukrainian government would continue.

During a Sept. 21 news conference, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters that Ukrainian pilots will soon arrive in the United States to begin training to fly F-16 fighter jets.

"As I understand it, for F-16 training, work or delivery of any equipment funded on previous [Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative] notifications such as F-16 pilot training, that would continue," Gen. Ryder said. "Execution could be impacted by furloughs and DOD's suspension of non-excepted activities. So in other words, the training would happen, but depending on—on whether or not there were certain personnel that were not able to report for duty, for example, that—that could have an impact on it."

President Joe Biden's administration also announced a new $325 million security assistance package for Ukraine on Sept. 21.

Ukraine Aid Fueling Budget Debate

The risk of a government shutdown has been brought on by a fractured Congress. Beyond the expected challenge of reconciling any budget proposals between the Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House, there are also divisions within the Republican House majority that are holding up a budget deal.
A major point of division comes between the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus, which is asking for more limits on discretionary spending and other conservative policy riders, and more conciliatory wings of House Republicans. Some House Republicans had thought they'd reached a deal to unite their party on a budget plan, but too many House Freedom Caucus members opposed the deal.
Another deal appeared to be gaining momentum with House Republicans on Sept. 21, but it remains to be seen if it will go through.

Congress has just days left to decide how to fund the government in fiscal year 2024. The current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Several Republicans have signaled that more funding for Ukraine could be a budget deal-breaker.

In an Aug. 31 meeting with her constituents, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) described new funding for Ukraine as a "red line" in budget negotiations that would lead her to vote against a bill.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.)—one of the key House Freedom Caucus players who are taking part in the intraparty budget debate—signaled opposition to new Ukraine aid as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Washington.

"There’s no money in the House right now for Ukraine. There's just not; it's not there," Mr. Donalds told a reporter on Sept. 19. "To be blunt, we're running a $2 trillion deficit. Any money we give to Ukraine, we're borrowing from our future.

He said that "it’s not a good time" for Mr. Zelenskyy to visit.

On Sept. 20, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave notice that he would attempt to block an expedited passage of any budget deal that includes additional spending for Ukraine.

Mr. Paul and Mr. Donalds were among a group of six Republican U.S. senators and 22 Republican U.S. representatives who wrote to the White House Office of Management and Budget, stating that they would oppose a Biden administration request for more Ukraine-related funding. The Republican lawmakers signaled no support for new Ukraine aid until they get answers on how the United States is tracking its existing aid to Ukraine and how the Biden administration will define its goals, measures of success, and exit plan for its ongoing strategy of propping up Ukraine against Russia.