May 15, 2022

Two weeks ago the Biden Administration proposed a $33 billion support package for Ukraine. After de-linking COVID-related funding that had managed to latch itself to the proposal, the cost was reduced to just $40 billion. Let’s see what’s in there.

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“H.R. 7691, Making emergency supplemental appropriations for assistance for the situation in Ukraine for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2022, and for other purposes,” is very short and disturbingly vague. As of this writing, only a draft copy is up here.

Total cost is $39,841,338,500. The title is a bit disingenuous. Less than $8 billion is to be fully expended this year. $16 billion is available through 2023, and $14 billion through 2024. $1.7 billion are no-year funds, held until expended. Does Congress expect this mess to continue for another 28-plus months or maybe forever?

What does this bill tell us? $67 million for the DOJ’s asset forfeiture program makes it looks like these folks have bitten off more than they can chew. Asset forfeiture, which can take up to 10 years to finalize, requires that items in federal custody not deteriorate in value. Managing a super-yacht costs about 10% of the purchase price per year. A yacht valued at $90 million was seized in Spain, at $300 million in Fiji, at $578 million in Trieste, at $735 million in Germany, and so on. Take out, say, 75% for staffing, food, and cruising fuel, and the government is left with $42.5 million for one year’s upkeep on just these four.

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$15 million allocated for military personnel costs, but just $37,500 for Navy, $675,000 for Marines, and $1,590,000 for Air Force. So, our training and other operations are expected to be land-based. Too bad about Russia’s continuing attempt to control the Black Sea coastline and use the Mediterranean as its naval superhighway. The military operations and maintenance budget is just shy of $18 billion, including a little less than $9 billion for replenishing stock, training expenses, and reimbursement to other countries for their assistance to Ukraine. What operations; how maintained; which countries? We don’t know; the bill doesn’t say. Congress, however, has directed the Secretary of Defense to prepare plans for the expenditure and transfer of these funds, to be approved by Congress. In any case, it looks like we’re going to shoulder some of the defense costs of NATO countries once again. Sorry, 45.

Missiles, weapons, ammunition, and other procurement comes in at $1.774 billion, on top of the $800 million already spent. The White House was very specific on what we’ve already funded. What will we be funding? Who knows? The bill doesn’t say.

Military R&D is slightly less than $500 million. Research and development—doesn’t that take years? Close to $15 million for DOD health programs and capitalization rounds out the nearly $19.8 billion in total military spending.

$2 million to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for salaries and expenses. Uh-oh. Hope this is needed only for inspecting and advising on damaged power generation facilities.

$900 million to the Department of Health and Human Services for refugee support, mostly to be passed through qualified NGOs. What’s a qualified NGO? The bill doesn’t say. Persons paroled into the United States under this bill must pass security and law enforcement background checks. Why are we treating these poor victims of war so much more harshly than the self-selected beggars at our southern border? If we required proof of identity and passing security screening before being allowed across that border we might not have as much use for the word “chaos” as we do today.

$54 million to the CDC to help with public health in Ukraine and among its displaced population.