The Pentagon’s No. 2 official said that the threat of a government shutdown and other internal upheaval in Washington threatens US military readiness and its ability to support Ukraine.
(Bloomberg) — The Pentagon’s No. 2 official said that the threat of a government shutdown and other internal upheaval in Washington threatens US military readiness and its ability to support Ukraine.
“With uncertainty at every turn, we know Russia and the People’s Republic of China aren’t slowing down to let us get our house in order,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks told Bloomberg reporters on Thursday. “We need to move with speed and confidence in order to meet the threats and the security needs that we have.”
She said the US has options for continued funding of military support for Ukraine even if Congress doesn’t approve the administration’s latest proposal. But she said the Pentagon isn’t yet looking at “reprogramming” money allocated to other areas to make up the gap.
“That’s not where we need to be now, today, until we have a better sense” for how long the current congressional stalemate plays out, she said. For the moment, the department is focused on the passage of new fiscal 2024 budget authority rather than crafting and then submitting a request to shift previously appropriated dollars to Ukraine spending.
The latest tranche of aid for Ukraine was left out of the stopgap spending plan reached over the weekend, raising fears in Washington and among allies about how strong support is for continued aid. President Joe Biden called allied leaders Tuesday to pledge that the funds would be found and has said he’s planning a major speech soon to lay out the case for public backing for the assistance.
The Ukraine funding goes to support the US defense industry as the Pentagon buys weapons to replace those sent to Kyiv to fight Russia, Hicks noted.
The use of short-term spending deals instead of full-year budgeting has become “routine,” Hicks said. “It’s not a sign of a strong and functioning system.”
Hicks, 53, oversees the day-to-day management of the largest federal bureaucracy.
“Usually it’s not one big break: Readiness can corrode over time,” Hicks said. “We see that in many ways through the era of sequestration through this decade-long number of continuing resolutions,” she said, referring to the short-term spending compromises that have become increasingly common. The current one runs through Nov. 17.
Hicks also hit out at Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville’s blockade of military nominations over the Pentagon’s abortion policies. “That hold is unnecessary, unprecedented and unsafe, and it needs to stop now,” Hicks said. “It’s bad for the US military, it’s bad for their families. It’s bad for America.”
Hicks said that political dysfunction in the US creates opportunities for opponent abroad to argue that democracy doesn’t work.
“When we are not functioning that opens us to criticism that’s unnecessary about our our system of government,” she said.
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