News   Partnerships

Aid to Ukraine Successful, DOD Spokesman Says

Oct. 3, 2019 | BY C. Todd Lopez

Earlier this year, the Defense Department made plans to provide some $250 million in aid to Ukraine, with the goal of transitioning that aid before the end of the fiscal year. The department was largely successful in that goal, a Pentagon spokesman said.

"As of today, the bulk of this $250 million is on contract, the rest should be out soon," Jonathan Rath Hoffman, the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said during a news conference at the Pentagon today.

A soldier stands in a grassy area with his rifle pointed toward the ground. In the background is a large military vehicle.
Rapid Trident
A Ukrainian soldier defends his post during a forward operating base security exercise as part of Rapid Trident 2019 near Yavoriv, Ukraine, Sept. 24, 2019.
Photo By: Army Pfc. Caleb Minor
VIRIN: 190924-A-JB875-1494

"As the secretary stated, the brief pause on obligating funds did not negatively affect our national security," Hoffman said.

Around 85% of the funds have already been transitioned to Ukraine, and Hoffman said the remainder "will be going out in the next few days to a week."

Those funds, he said, provide equipment to support Ukrainian training programs and operational needs. Hardware includes rigid hull boats, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, counter-artillery radars, electronic warfare detection equipment, secure communications gear, night vision equipment and military medical treatment devices.

"This assistance helps to build Ukraine's capacity to defend itself against aggressive Russian actions in the region," he said.

Two soldiers in crouch in a wooded area. Facing away from each other, they aim their rifles.
Ukraine Convoy
Ukrainian soldiers perform convoy, cordon and search tasks as part of a field training exercise during Rapid Trident 2019 near Yavoriv, Ukraine, Sept. 24, 2019.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Amanda H. Johnson, California National Guard
VIRIN: 190924-Z-NP032-100C
Soldiers lie on the ground and aim their rifles.
Trident Training
Ukrainian soldiers conduct marksmanship training and small-unit tactics during Rapid Trident 2019 near Yavoriv, Ukraine, Sept. 21, 2019.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Amanda H. Johnson, California National Guard
VIRIN: 190921-Z-NP032-019

In July, President Donald J. Trump spoke on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and discussed, among other things, the aid the U.S. would provide to Ukraine. Hoffman said no DOD personnel were listening in.

"To my knowledge, no one from the DOD was on that call," he said. "I specifically asked the secretary of defense that question — and he was not on that call."

The department’s general counsel requested any documents and communications related to the security assistance aid to Ukraine for cataloging and review, Hoffman said.

We want partners and allies to not only be standing with us, but to have capabilities when they are standing with us."
Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs

That collection of documents, Hoffman said, is a fairly standard practice if there's congressional or inspector general interest in a matter. It's a "fairly routine, but proactive measure we're taking." he added.

Today, Hoffman said, the department's stance on security remains the same as it has been in the past.

"We have been very consistent that we are going to be supportive of our allies and partners," he said. "We are going to follow through and present and press forward on aid packages. One thing that's been consistent that the administration has said, and the president has reiterated and the secretary has reiterated to our allies and partners, is that we are expecting our partners ... to do more. We want partners and allies to not only be standing with us, but to have capabilities when they are standing with us."

Two military combat vehicles traverse a dirt path.
Fire Support
A 101st Airborne Division Humvee provides fire support for a Ukrainian armed forces engineer vehicle during a water-gap crossing demonstration as part of Rapid Trident 2019 in Yavoriv, Ukraine, Sept. 20, 2019.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Kyle Larsen
VIRIN: 190920-A-AS262-1019C

Hoffman also said Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper has continued to stress the need for a fiscal year 2020 budget. The federal government, and the department, are operating on a continuing resolution.

"In the near term of one to three months, continuing resolutions disrupt major exercises and training events, effect radians and maintenance, [delay] hiring and recruitment actions, and adversely impact contracting negotiations," Hoffman said. "The department's ability to implement the National Defense Strategy depends on steady predictable funding from Congress, and Secretary Esper will continue to engage with members on this topic."