Pentagon to exempt Ukraine operations from potential government shutdown

September 22, 2023

The Pentagon plans to exempt its Ukraine operations from any government shutdown, should Congress fail to agree on a federal budget by the September 30 midnight deadline, Defense Department spokesperson Chris Sherwood told Politico Thursday. 

With little over a week to avert a shutdown GOP hardliners on Thursday for a second time this week blocked a vote to forward the bill to cover 2024 defense appropriations spending, with several far-right Republicans protesting further aid to Ukraine. 

And after GOP hardliners iced a plan to work through the weekend to work to pass a short-term stopgap spending bill, a visibly frustrated House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) slammed the far-right members of his caucus Thursday, saying they just want to “burn the place down.”

All of this happened on the same day that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Washington and met with bipartisan Congressional leadership, including McCarthy, Pentagon brass and President Biden.

At the White House, Zelensky and Biden announced that they’d agreed to several new measures to assist Ukraine in its war against Russia—though  the additional $24 billion in security, economic and humanitarian aid that Biden’s requesting for Ukraine from Congress remains up in the air amid the tumultuous budget talks on Capitol Hill. 

At the Pentagon, where Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirmed the desire to help Ukraine in “deterring Russian aggression” now and in the future, Sherwood told Politico, “Operation Atlantic Resolve is an excepted activity under a government lapse in appropriations.”

This means that U.S. military activities related to the Ukraine-Russia war will continue despite any shutdown, including the training of Ukrainian soldiers on American tactics and equipment, as well as shipments of weapons to Kyiv.

The assertion was a turnaround at Defense, where Sherwood has said only Tuesday that a government shutdown could halt these operations.

However, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder has warned that even if the Ukraine-related operations continue, other Pentagon functions would have to halt, and furloughs would occur, all having a negative impact on defense.

The U.S. military is currently training hundreds of Ukrainians in Europe, from teaching them American battlefield tactics to how to use the Abrams. Several Ukrainian pilots and dozens of maintainers are also slated to start training on F-16 fighter jets at a U.S. base in Arizona soon.

According to the Defense Department, as of this week international forces have trained more than 84,000 Ukrainians on Western weapons and tactics. 

PHOTO: Zelensky with Defense Sec. Austin on Thursday

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