What Is in the Ukraine Aid Package, and What Does it Mean for the Future of the War?

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After months of intense congressional debate, Congress passed and the president signed into law a $61 billion aid package for Ukraine. The legislation gives the president nearly everything he wanted, which is surprising given the drama in the Republican House caucus. The new legislation brings the total U.S. commitment to $175 billion since the beginning of the invasion. It will produce an immediate surge in deliveries of military equipment, which had fallen to about 10 percent of what they had been last year. Because of the delay, another funding package will not be needed until January. That pushes it past the presidential campaign. Despite all this good news, a cloud hangs on the horizon: How does Ukraine plan on winning this war?

Q1: What is included in the package?

A1: The $61 billion of the Ukraine Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2024 falls into six categories.

Military equipment for Ukraine ($25.7 billion) comprises the largest part of the funding and does three things. First, it replaces equipment that has been or will be sent to Ukraine through presidential drawdown authority (PDA) ($13.4 billion). This authority allows the president to take weapons and munitions from U.S. stockpiles and send them to Ukraine. Although there is no statutory requirement to replace the equipment, Congress has provided funding to do so. If it had not, the resulting shortfalls would have badly hurt U.S. readiness.

Second, it provides Ukraine with funding through the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program ($1.6 billion). This program provides grants and loans for allies and partners such as Ukraine to purchase weapons and munitions in the United States.

The third and final element is enhancing the defense industrial base to increase production capabilities and develop more advanced weapons and munitions ($7.0 billion). For example, the bill includes funding to help the U.S. Army meet its monthly production goal of 100,000 155-millimeter (mm) shells by 2025. The United States currently produces around 40,000 shells per month, whereas Ukraine needs at least 100,000 shells per month and up to 180,000 for offensive operations.

A curious element is that the legislation requests $13.4 billion to replenish stockpiles but only $7.8 billion of new drawdown authority. This discrepancy implies a preexisting deficit, likely stemming from accounting changes made last summer. The accounting changes priced equipment at the depreciated value rather than the replacement value. This meant that the Department of Defense (DOD) could send more equipment within an existing authorization level but would need more funding to replace it since the replacements would be purchased at the cost of new equipment.

Ukraine-related military activities ($17 billion) funds the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) ($13.8 billion) and U.S. intelligence operations ($3.3 billion). USAI provides funds for three things: training that Ukraine might need for new weapons, individuals, or units; the United States buying arms on the global market, which it has done extensively in the past to acquire Soviet-standard equipment that Ukrainian forces are accustomed to using; and Ukraine purchasing weapons and equipment directly from U.S. manufacturers.

Economic support to Ukraine ($7.9 billion) assists the Ukrainian government in sustaining essential government services, including law enforcement. This support is structured as a loan, not a grant (section 508), in response to pressure from Republicans and former president Trump. There are detailed procedures by which the president can forgive the loans, giving the president a lot of authority. Essentially, the president can forgive the loans unless Congress takes specific action to disagree. Describing the procedures for these grants takes up three of the fourteen pages in the bill.

U.S. forces ($7.3 billion) pays for the heightened U.S. force presence in Europe. The United States initially surged 20,000 troops to Europe to reassure European allies. While the surge presence declined to around 10,000, the regular fiscal year 2024 budget does not fully cover the costs of these deployed forces. Funds mostly go to the U.S. Army, which received $4.9 billion for its operations and maintenance.

Humanitarian aid ($2.5 billion) includes $1.6 billion for a special “assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia” fund, $300 million for counter-drug activities, and $100 million for demining. About $481 million supports Ukrainian refugees in the United States.

Other U.S. governmental agencies ($335 million) includes $150 million for the Department of Energy’s nonproliferation activities. This has been a long-running effort to safeguard civilian power plants and hedge against nuclear incidents. There is also $98 million for research on medical devices, which is perhaps a worthwhile effort but entirely unrelated to the war in Ukraine.

Q2: How does the final legislation compare with the president’s initial request?

A2: The final bill aligns closely with what the president requested last October, except for humanitarian aid, where there is an apparent reduction of $5.8 billion. However, the Israel supplemental contains $9.2 billion for “International Disaster Assistance,” “Migration and Refugee Assistance,” and “International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement.” This covers needs arising from the war in Ukraine and needs in the Middle East, such as for Gaza, as well as general international development.

The table below compares the president’s October 20 request with the final bill.

Chris Park
Program Coordinator and Research Assistant, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy
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Three policy provisions appear in the final legislation that were not in the president’s original proposal.

The first is a requirement (section 504) that the executive branch send Congress within 45 days “a strategy regarding United States support for Ukraine against aggression by the Russian Federation.” The strategy “shall be multi-year, establish specific and achievable objectives, define and prioritize United States national security interests, and include the metrics to be used to measure progress in achieving such objectives.” Typically, reports are not terribly interesting in congressional legislation, which generally contain dozens of them. However, this requirement gets at a long-standing congressional concern: How will Ukraine win? Will this be a forever war?

Second, there is a requirement (section 505) to send the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), precision-guided missiles, with a range of up to 300 kilometers, to Ukraine. Sending ATACMS has been controversial because the administration has been wary of the escalation risks that come if Ukraine uses ATACMS to strike deep into the Russian homeland. U.S.-supplied HIMARS, the ATACMS launcher, reportedly had their software adjusted so they could not fire the shorter-range Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System missiles into Russian territory.

However, the Biden administration appears to have overcome these escalation concerns as, over time, it has become clear that these escalation risks were not as substantial as feared. Russia appears to have two red lines: no NATO troops in Ukraine and no ground invasion of the Russian homeland. ATACMS would not contravene either of these red lines. Thus, the Biden administration reportedly sent some ATACMS last fall and more last week. The statutory language would expand these deliveries and give the administration political cover if problems develop.

Finally, the bill includes $18 million to support the work of the inspectors general at the DOD and USAID. This explicit provision of oversight funding reflects congressional concerns about weak tracking of military equipment and corruption within the Ukrainian government. Opponents of Ukrainian aid cite corruption in the Ukrainian government as one of their principal concerns, fearing that much of the money will be wasted. Although there has been no evidence of misuse of U.S.-provided military assistance, Ukraine has a low score on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

Q3: How much money has the United States committed as a result of the conflict in Ukraine?

A3: With the latest supplemental, the United States has committed $175 billion in economic, humanitarian, and military aid as a result of the war. Most of the funding for Ukraine has come from five emergency supplemental bills passed, though the regular appropriations have included some money.

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Q4: Where will this money be spent?

A4: The notion of “aid to Ukraine” is a misnomer. Despite images of “pallets of cash” being sent to Ukraine, about 72 percent of this money overall and 86 percent of the military aid will be spent in the United States. The reason for this high percentage is that weapons going to Ukraine are produced in U.S. factories, payments to U.S. service members are mostly spent in the United States, and even some piece of the humanitarian aid is spent in the United States. The major element of funding going to Ukraine is the economic support to the Ukrainian government, which the World Bank handles.

Q5: What has been the impact of the drawn-out congressional debate?

A5: The chart below shows military aid announcements and how they declined as funding ran out.

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However, because equipment does not arrive immediately after an announcement but over several months, U.S. military aid never ended, though it tapered off dramatically. The chart below shows estimated deliveries of military aid (dark blue line) and where deliveries will likely go with the approval of this additional funding. The dotted line shows where deliveries were headed without more money.

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Q6: How quickly will aid reach the front lines?

A6: The president stated that weapons shipments began “a few hours” after signing the bill. Indeed, DOD quickly announced a $1 billion PDA drawdown and $6 billion of USAI conatracts. Early PDA deliveries will likely emphasize items that can be shipped quickly and have an immediate battlefield impact. The United States has been stockpiling the monthly production of key systems. Indeed, the initial PDA package includes artillery and air defense munitions, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV), and other weapons systems.

Delivery timelines vary significantly by system and how the United States committed them. USAI commitments will take years to go through the contracting and manufacturing process. Drawdowns generally reach the front lines quickly. For example, cluster munitions, plentiful in the U.S. stockpile, arrived in Ukraine less than a week after the Biden administration’s decision to send them. Existing stockpiles provided the administration with swift means to arm Ukraine, albeit with concerns about U.S. readiness.

Other equipment has notoriously taken longer. The M1 Abrams, for example, took nearly eight months to arrive in Ukraine because of the time needed to refurbish the tanks and train crews.

The table below shows delivery times for equipment where data are available.

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Training is unlikely to pose a major delay as Ukrainian officials have not publicly requested new systems requiring extensive training. However, expanding capabilities with a small footprint like Patriot will take time because so few personnel are currently trained.

A large number of ATACMS could be sent quickly, as more than 1,000 are in the U.S. stockpile today. The risk of the United States being short for other conflicts is low because the Precision Strike Missile—the successor to the ATACMS—began deliveries in late 2023. ATACMS is obsolescent.

Enhancing air defense, one of Ukraine’s top needs, will take years because the United States eliminated most of that capability after the Cold War. For example, the United States committed 14 National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS). The first two NASAMS, as a PDA drawdown, arrived in November 2022, taking about four months to deliver. The other 10 NASAMS committed under USAI will not arrive until 2025 at the earliest because of a 24-month production lead time.

Finally, F-16s are unlikely to be in the early packages. They are expensive, with one F-16 costing as much to procure as 200 Stingers, and are also very costly to maintain.

Q7: How long will the $61 billion last?

A7: Until funding started to dry up, the United States had been spending about $5.4 billion per month as a result of the war. At that spending rate, $61 billion would last for nearly a full year. Indeed, the original intention was that the funding would last through fiscal year 2024 and run out in September or October. However, half the fiscal year has passed, and the money may last until about January 2025 as a result. Because most of the appropriations are multiyear, the administration can use the money into FY 2025.

That suits the political calendar. The administration will not want to send another aid request to Congress in the fall when the presidential election campaign is in full swing. If the Biden administration wins reelection, it will send a request to Congress either during the lame duck session or, if Democrats do well, after the new Congress takes office. If the Biden administration loses, it may send a request anyway to make a political statement, not expecting Congress to take action. The Republicans would want to wait until the new president took office.

Q8: What effect will this have on the war?

A8: Ukraine would have lost the war without this additional U.S. funding. The United States provides about half the military aid to Ukraine; without that, Ukrainian combat capabilities would be weakened. Russian forces were attacking in half a dozen areas along the front, and Ukrainian troops had to pull back in some places to more defensible lines. Ukrainian casualties increased, and more Russian missiles got through Ukrainian air defenses to hit targets in the rear. Although European and global supporters have provided a continuous stream of aid, that has not been enough to offset U.S. declines. European administrations have faced the same pressures from both the left and the right that the United States does.

The resumption of U.S. military aid means that Ukrainian resistance will stiffen. It will be able to slow or stop Russian attacks and even launch its own limited local counterattacks.

What happens after that is a crucial question for Ukraine. Before last year’s counteroffensive, Ukraine’s strategy looked straightforward: reconquer the country’s lost territories bite by bite. Ukraine had forced Russia back from Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson. The counteroffensive would take the next bite. However, with the failure of the counteroffensive, the way forward is unclear. Some experts have suggested a rebuilding year whereby Ukraine launches long-range strikes against Russian rear echelons and infrastructure, reequips its forces, trains units and individuals, and launches a counteroffensive in 2025. That may be the best Ukraine can do, but it is quite unsatisfying for both Ukrainians and Ukraine’s supporters, who are anxious for victory and an end to the fighting.

Mark F. Cancian (colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, ret.) is a senior adviser with the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. Chris H. Park is a research assistant and program coordinator for the Arleigh A. Burke Chair at CSIS.