Pentagon: US aid to Israel and Ukraine depends on Congressional action

by Braxton Taylor

The Israel-Hamas war has underscored the need for a real budget instead of a continuing resolution, a senior U.S. defense official said Monday, as the secretary of the Army called on Congress to increase funding to allow the Pentagon to support Israel and Ukraine at the same time.

“One thing that is really important in terms of the munitions in particular and our ability to support both potentially the Israelis and the Ukrainians simultaneously, is additional funding from Congress, to be able to increase our capacity…to expand production and then to also pay for the munitions themselves. We need additional support from Congress,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told reporters at the AUSA annual conference in Washington.

Nearly 1,600 people have been killed and thousands more wounded since Hamas attacked Israel on Saturday, the AP reported. 

On Monday, a senior U.S. defense official condemned the “ISIS-level savagery that we have seen committed against Israeli civilians,” adding that the attacks are not a continuation of the “same kind of tensions or conflicts that we’ve seen between Palestinians and Israelis, or in Gaza with Israelis in general.”

“This is different. It’s unprecedented. Hamas militants going across Israel, murdering children in front of their parents, massacring with indiscriminate violence in music festivals. Burning down entire houses while families sheltered in their bunkers. This is different. And we want to be very clear about what that is,” the senior defense official said.

And while the United States is able to support Ukraine and Israel while maintaining “our own global readiness,” the official said, “This is a clarifying moment in which we would welcome working in a bipartisan manner with Congress and the executive branch to ensure that we’re sending a signal to allies and partners across the world that our government, both parties and both branches of our government, are working together to ensure that the appropriate authority and appropriations are available to support and respond to crises and contingencies.”

On Sunday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sent the Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean, and said the Pentagon has “also taken steps to augment U.S. Air Force F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons in the region.”

Those “posture increases were intended to serve as an unequivocal demonstration in deed, and not only in words, of U.S. support for Israel’s defense and serve as a deterrent signal to Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah, and any other proxy across the region who might be considering exploiting the current situation to escalate conflict,” the senior defense official said Monday. “Those adversaries should think twice.”

The U.S. has also sped up military aid, including munitions, to Israel, according to the Pentagon. “Planes have already taken off,” and the U.S. will continue to deliver the requested aid as needed, the senior defense official said.

“At this point in time, we have the resources, authorities, and funding to continue our support to Israel, within of course the memorandum of understanding for security assistance. The current one started in fiscal year 2018 and pledged the highest level of security assistance and missile defense funding to Israel ever in the history of our bilateral relationship.”

As the war raged in the Middle East, the annual AUSA show went on in Washington—but several of the display booths at Israel’s capacious pavilion on the show floor sat deserted. Instead, a candle burned on a counter and sales representatives wore black swatches behind their U.S.-Israel flag pins. Israel Aerospace Industries canceled a planned press event.

Marcus Weisgerber and Lauren C. Williams contributed to this report.



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