Defense & National Security – Biden to send $450 million in aid to Ukraine
The Biden administration on Thursday said it would send $450 million in new security assistance to Ukraine.
We’ll break down the new assistance. Plus, we’ll look at all the defense and veterans’ bills under consideration on Capitol Hill.
This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.
Biden tees up $450 million for Ukraine
The Biden administration unveiled a $450 million security assistance package to Ukraine on Thursday.
Thursday’s package is the 13th time that President Biden has authorized a weapons package for Kyiv under presidential drawdown authority since August 2021.
The U.S. has now given $6.1 billion in security assistance since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24 and $6.8 billion since the beginning of the administration.
What’s in the package: In a separate statement, acting Pentagon Press Secretary Todd Breasseale said the following items were in the new package:
Four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems
36,000 rounds of 105mm ammunition
18 tactical vehicles to tow 155mm artillery
1,200 grenade launchers
2,000 machine guns
18 coastal and riverine patrol boats
Spare parts and other equipment
Bolstering Ukraine’s defenses: The Ukrainians have been pleading for more heavy weaponry in order to fight the Russians as they have focused their attacks on Ukraine’s east.
“The United States will continue to bolster Ukraine’s defenses and support its sovereignty and its territorial integrity,” John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, told reporters.
“The bravery and determination of the Ukrainian armed forces, let alone their fellow citizens, continues to inspire the world and we are committed to standing with them as they fight for their freedom,” he said.
Biden’s trip to Europe: The announcement of the assistance came days before President Biden is set to depart for an overseas trip to participate in a Group of Seven (G7) meeting in Germany and a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Spain. Both meetings are expected to focus heavily on Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Committee advances nearly $840B defense bill
The House Armed Services Committee in the early morning hours of Thursday voted to advance its $840 billion version of the annual defense policy bill, adding in more for extra ships, aircraft, Ukraine aid and to offset inflation.
Following a 16-hour markup session that stretched past 2 a.m., the committee approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023 by a vote of 57-1.
After the full House takes up the legislation in July, it will join the Senate’s version of the bill, passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee last week and head to the full Senate next month.
Then lawmakers from both chambers will work to negotiate a final, combined compromise.
The hallmark amendment: Among the biggest amendments added was one proposed by Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Elaine Luria (D-Va.) to increase the defense budget by $37 billion.
Though Smith opposed the amendment, it passed the committee by a vote of 42-17.
The Senate Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, has proposed a $45 billion increase, a difference that will be ironed out in conference later this year.
Also in the bill: The House bill also offers a 4.6 percent pay raise for troops in 2023 — the largest in two decades if enacted. The pay bump, which mirrors the Pentagon’s requested pay raise, would go into effect Jan. 1.
The legislation also includes funding for ships, vehicles and missile launchers the Pentagon didn’t initially ask for in its version of the bill, including $3.6 billion for another destroyer, a frigate and two medical ships, among other vessels.
And to offset the rising inflation in the past several months, the bill includes $3.5 billion for extra costs associated with military construction, $2.5 billion for fuel and $1.4 billion for an additional inflation.
House ups VA’s ability to address veterans’ suicide
The House on Thursday passed legislation aimed at increasing the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) capacity to address veterans’ suicide and expand access to mental health resources for veterans.
The lower chamber passed the Supporting the Resilience of Our Nations’ Great Veterans Act of 2022, or the STRONG Veteran Act, by voice vote. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Among its provisions, the STRONG Veterans Act would require the VA to ensure that it hires at least one minority outreach coordinator at each of its medical centers. The measure also looks to expand culturally competent suicide prevention at VA for Native American veterans.
The bill would also increase mental health staffing and training at VA medical centers and Vet Centers— which are community-based counseling centers operated by the VA for veterans and active-duty servicemembers.
In addition, the bill would also direct the VA to expand its peer specialist support program, which allows veterans who have recovered from mental illness and substance use disorders to help other veterans dealing with the same issues.
The harsh reality: According to data released by the VA in September,
6,261 veterans died by suicide in 2019, 399 fewer than in 2018. However, the veteran suicide rate was still higher than the rate among adults who are not veterans.
In late May, the VA unveiled Mission Daybreak, a $20 million challenge which solicits researchers, advocates, and health innovators to develop innovative methods for preventing suicide among veterans.
ON TAP TOMORROW
The House Appropriations Committee will hold a markup on FY 2023 Homeland Security and Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bills at 9 a.m. The Hudson Institute will host an event on “War, Ukraine, and a Global Alliance for Freedom” at 10 a.m. The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations will hold a discussion on “President Biden’s Visit to Saudi Arabia: Implications and Opportunities” at 10 a.m. The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies will host an event on “Delivering on Our Commitments in Space Acquisition with Frank Calvelli” at 10 a.m. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies will host an event on “Investing to Deter in the Pacific: A Conversation with INDOPACOM Commander Admiral John Aquilino” at 10:15 a.m. The Centers for Strategic and International Studies will host a discussion on “Boost-Phase Missile Defense: Interrogating the Assumptions” at 11 a.m. The Wilson Center will host a discussion “Assessing US Support to Ukraine Four Months after Russia’s Invasion” at 12 p.m. The Brookings Institution will hold an online discussion on “Legacies and lessons from America’s post-9/11 wars” at 2 p.m.
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