Follow us on social

52019176965_8fa3af048f_k

Will proposed watchdog for Ukraine aid make it past the White House?

Despite concerns from Republicans, the Biden administration says current oversight efforts are more than enough.

Analysis | Washington Politics

Since the new Congress took over in January, Republican lawmakers have been fighting to establish a special inspector general for Ukraine aid. The proposal — modeled on the special IGs for Afghanistan and Iraq — has slowly gained momentum as the war has settled into an apparent stalemate, signaling the possibility of a long and expensive conflict.

The idea earned a boost last month when Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) added a provision to an annual defense bill that would authorize funding for a Ukraine oversight office. Gaetz’s amendment made it through the House Armed Services Committee, and the Appropriations Committee approved funding for a special IG in a parallel bill. So the proposal is now poised to make it through the House, barring a significant twist in the amendments process.

But a major stumbling block remains. In a statement from the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Biden administration said it wants the provision removed, setting up a fight when the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act go to conference later this year.

The White House argued that current oversight efforts — which include a joint plan from several inspectors general — are already more than enough, citing “multiple investigations regarding every aspect of this assistance — from assessing the processes for developing security assistance requirements to evaluating the end-use monitoring processes for delivered assistance.”

But others are not so sure. John Sopko — the long-time Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction — slammed the administration’s approach to Ukraine aid oversight in an interview with RS earlier this year. 

“This is the problem of the three IGs. They can come up with a way to coordinate their work, but the DoD IG cannot look at State programs. The State IG cannot look at AID programs,” Sopko said. “They’re going to try their best, but I think there’s something like 14 or 17 separate U.S. oversight bodies. So you got 17 of those, plus you have like 50-some countries involved, and each one of them has an oversight body. I mean, this is like herding cats.”

“You just can’t spend that much money that fast without having money being diverted and weapons being diverted,” he added. “We are naive if we think just because it’s a noble cause there won’t be corruption.”

It remains unclear whether Sopko’s arguments will prove persuasive to the Senate, which voted down previous efforts to establish a special Ukraine watchdog from Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). 

But persuasion may not matter in this case. In recent years, the president and congressional leaders have largely negotiated the final NDAA behind closed doors after a version of the bill passed the House and Senate. Given the importance of consistent funding for the military, the draft agreed by leadership has generally gotten a quick rubber stamp from each chamber.

In other words, the proposal’s success largely hangs on whether House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is willing to fight for it. McCarthy has previously expressed support for expanding oversight of Ukraine aid. But only time will tell if he is ready to battle the White House to get it.

President Joe Biden holds a meeting with military and civilian defense leadership, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, at the White House, April 20, 2022. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
Analysis | Washington Politics
The Ukraine War at two years: By the numbers


KYIV, UKRAINE - July 12, 2023: Destroyed and burned Russian military tanks and parts of equipment are exhibited at the Mykhailivska square in Kyiv city centre. (Oleksandr Popenko/Shutterstock)

The Ukraine War at two years: By the numbers

Europe

Two years ago on Feb. 24, 2022, the world watched as Russian tanks rolled into the outskirts of Kyiv and missiles struck the capital city.

Contrary to initial predictions, Kyiv never fell, but the country today remains embroiled in conflict. The front line holds in the southeastern region of the country, with contested areas largely focused on the Russian-speaking Donbas and port cities around the Black Sea.

keep readingShow less
Navalny's death shouldn't close off talks with Putin

A woman lays flowers at the monument to the victims of political repressions following the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in Moscow, Russia February 16, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer

Navalny's death shouldn't close off talks with Putin

Analysis

President Biden was entirely correct in the first part of his judgment on the death of Alexei Navalny: “Putin is responsible, whether he ordered it, or he is responsible for the circumstances he put that man in.” Even if Navalny eventually died of “natural causes,” his previous poisoning, and the circumstances of his imprisonment, must obviously be considered as critical factors in his death.

For his tremendous courage in returning to Russia after his medical treatment in the West — knowing well the dangers that he faced — the memory of Navalny should be held in great honor. He joins the immense list of Russians who have died for their beliefs at the hands of the state. Public expressions of anger and disgust at the manner of his death are justified and correct.

keep readingShow less
Big US investors prop up the nuclear weapons industry

ProStockStudio via shutterstock.com

Big US investors prop up the nuclear weapons industry

Military Industrial Complex

Nuclear weapons aren’t just a threat to human survival, they’re a multi-billion-dollar business supported by some of the biggest institutional investors in the U.S. according to new data released today by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and PAX, the largest peace organization in the Netherlands.

For the third year in a row, globally, the number of investors in nuclear weapons producers has fallen but the overall amount invested in these companies has increased, largely thanks to some of the biggest investment banks and funds in the U.S.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis

Latest