By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation
The United States has a limited ability to ensure the billions in weapons sent to Ukraine stays out of the wrong hands, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told Congress on Tuesday.
The Pentagon has previously acknowledged the difficulty of guaranteeing the final destination of more than $30 billion in weapons aid delivered so far to Ukraine. An ability to maintain only a small contingent of non-combat personnel dedicated to oversight at the embassy in Kyiv means it relies mostly on Ukrainian soldiers to inspect aid at destinations closer to the front lines and upload photos of weapons to a secure software for confirmation.
“There are some means and mechanisms of doing some accountability. It is not as rigorous as you might think,” Milley told Congress, adding he could elaborate on the reporting mechanism in a classified setting.
Milley pointed to the effectiveness of Ukraine’s forces as a proxy for the integrity of U.S. assistance in Ukraine.
“You can see the accountability on the battlefield,” he said.
DOD has not identified any clear instances of illicit weapons diversion in Ukraine, such as selling equipment to unauthorized users, officials told Congress at a hearing in February.
“We’re not just taking Ukrainians’ words for it,” The Pentagon’s Inspector General, Robert Storch, told Congress. The watchdog provides scanners to Ukrainian troops and uses shared software with NATO allies for reporting the final destinations of Western-provided weapons, he confirmed.
“They are asking us for more because they are using everything we provided them,” Storch continued.
The joint oversight program with the State Department and USAID is ongoing and focused on making sure DOD has the procedures in place to prevent fraud and misuse, Storch reiterated.
Although the security environment prevents DOD from maintaining monitoring outposts on the active battlefield, the Pentagon coordinates with roughly a dozen officials at the embassy in Kyiv to conduct occasional on-site visits, accordingto The Hill.
Storch will testify again before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
DOD, the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) released a joint plan for conducting Ukraine oversight in January, but many of the projects focus on activities happening outside of Ukraine.
DOD planned in September to transfer much of the responsibility for tracking weapons to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, allowing the troops to “conduct its own inspections,” according to Politico. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s more intensive verification requirements include documenting serial numbers for smaller items like Switchblade drones and night-vision equipment, the cable stated.