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Oversight of US Aid to Ukraine in the Crosshairs


FILE - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a virtual address to Congress by video at the Capitol in Washington, March 16, 2022.
FILE - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a virtual address to Congress by video at the Capitol in Washington, March 16, 2022.

A call for increased oversight of the billions of dollars in aid that the United States is sending to Ukraine faces an uncertain future as lawmakers in the Senate begin debate on a bill to fund the U.S. military for the coming year.

The demand, to establish a special inspector general for Ukraine assistance, is a key part of the $874.2 billion version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives this past Friday by a vote of 219-210, with its mainly Republican supporters insisting it is the only way to make sure U.S. assistance does not fall prey to corruption and incompetence.

"The American people, the taxpayers of this country, deserve to know where their money is going and how it is being spent," Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene said last November, when she and other lawmakers started to build momentum for the creation of a special inspector general.

"The American people are not going to support this war without review, without asking tough questions," Republican Matt Gaetz said.

With the support of Greene, Gaetz and others, language in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act would require the departments of Defense and State to set up and staff an office dedicated to examining the more than $42 billion in security aid to Ukraine, as well as the approximately $25 billion in humanitarian and economic assistance.

Specifically, the provision would require the special inspector general to maintain staff in Ukraine and produce quarterly reports on the fate of U.S. aid, to some extent following the model set by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which has been producing reports since October 2008.

"That actually worked," Republican Representative Warren Davidson said of SIGAR during a March 2023 hearing on aid to Ukraine.

"We weren't getting results until we did that," he added, suggesting aid to Ukraine might benefit from similar oversight.

But there has been pushback from the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House.

The Defense Department Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office "are currently undertaking multiple investigations regarding every aspect of this assistance — from assessing the [Defense Department's] processes for developing security assistance requirements to evaluating the end-use monitoring processes for delivered assistance — at the request of the Congress," the White House said in a statement earlier this month.

There also seems to be little appetite in the Democrat-controlled Senate to add another layer of oversight.

A measure introduced by Republican Senator Josh Hawley to create a special inspector general for Ukraine was defeated 68-26 in a vote this past March. Among those voting no were some prominent Republicans, including Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Roger Wicker and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Marco Rubio.

Some analysts have also raised doubts about the need for a special inspector general for Ukraine.

"There's no question accountability is needed. However, I don't think this inspector general is really the way to go," said Elizabeth Hoffman, director of congressional and government affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Hoffman echoed concerns that creating a new special inspector general for Ukraine would likely create redundancies. And she rejected comparisons to the special inspector general that was set up to oversee efforts in Afghanistan.

"The two situations are so, so different that I don't think it's a simple copy-paste solution," she said. "Ukraine has, and had, a very robust civil society, a functioning government. … That wasn't the case in Afghanistan."

Hoffman also expressed concern that the additional oversight could have "a chilling effect."

"[SIGAR] made people very risk averse," she said, worrying that another special inspector general could bog down efforts to help Kyiv.

"It could make people unwilling to take calculated risks … to be creative with assistance and respond to the situation on the ground."

“We are not going to relent. We are not going to back down. We are not going to give up on the cause that is righteous,” Republican Representative Scott Perry said this past Friday after passage of the House version of the bill. “We are going to use every single tool at our disposal to ensure that we change from crazy to normal.”

Katherine Gypson contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this report identified Representative Matt Gaetz as a member of the House Freedom Caucus. While Gaetz often appears at press conferences with the conservative group, his press secretary says Gaetz is not and has not been a member.