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If Congress approves the funding, this would allow the US to send weapons to Ukraine for the war with Russia

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon could move weapons to Ukraine within days if Congress passes a long-delayed aid bill. That’s because the country has a network of storage sites in the US and Europe, which already have the ammunition and air defense components that Kiev so desperately needs.

Fast action is crucial, CIA Director Bill Burns said Thursday, warning that without additional U.S. help, Ukraine could lose the war to Russia by the end of this year.

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said, “We would very much like to be able to rush security assistance in the quantities that we think we need to be successful.”

If about $61 billion in funding for the war-torn country is greenlit, “we will have a very robust logistics network that will allow us to move material very quickly,” Ryder told reporters Thursday. “We can move in a few days.”

The Pentagon has had supplies ready for months but has not moved them because the money has run out. The country has already spent all of the funding previously provided by Congress to support Ukraine, sending more than $44 billion in weapons, maintenance, training and spare parts since Russia’s February 2022 invasion.

In December, the Pentagon was already in the hole with $10 billion, because it will now cost more to replace the systems it sent to the battlefield in Ukraine.

As a result, the Pentagon’s frequent aid packages for Ukraine dried up, as there was no guarantee that Congress would approve the additional funding needed to replenish the weapons the US sent to Ukraine. The legislation would include more than $20 billion to restock the Pentagon’s shelves and ensure the military services have what they need to fight and protect America.

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The delay in arms deliveries has forced Ukrainian forces to ration their dwindling ammunition supply for months.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is pushing the Ukraine funding bill toward a weekend vote despite threats from his party that it could cost him his job. If Congress passes the bill, President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has said he will sign it “immediately,” prompting the Pentagon to recall stockpiled weapons to supply to Ukraine.

A look at how the US can quickly move weapons to Ukraine:

PRESIDENTIAL RECORDING AUTHORITY

When an aid package for Ukraine is announced, the weapons would be delivered through the Presidential Withdrawal Authority, which allows the military to immediately draw on its stockpiles, or through security assistance, which finances long-term contracts with the defense industry to obtain the systems.

The Presidential Drawdown Authority, or PDA, as it is known, has allowed the military to send billions of dollars worth of ammunition, air defense missile launchers, tanks, vehicles and other equipment to Ukraine.

“In the past, we have seen weapons transferred through the Presidential Drawing Authority arrive within a matter of days,” said Brad Bowman, director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a center for military and political power.

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These supplies are drawn from bases or storage facilities in the US or from European locations where the US has already produced weapons to shorten the time it takes to deliver them once funding is approved.

REDUCING US STOCKS

As the war in Ukraine continued, the US began sending increasingly larger, deadlier, and more expensive systems to the war front. This included complete air defense systems, armored vehicles, advanced missiles – even Abrams tanks.

Replacing these systems cost more, pushing the military – especially the military – deeper into debt. In addition, in some cases the military has chosen to replace older systems sent to Ukraine with more expensive, high-tech systems at home.

As a result, military leaders recently told Congress that without passage of the foreign aid bill, they will run out of money and have to transfer money from other accounts.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Gen. Randy George, Army chief of staff, said the department would not have enough money to bring home troops serving in Europe or to train units in the US.

American weapons cache

The US military has vast weapons storage facilities for millions of rounds of ammunition of all sizes, which would be ready for use in the event of war.

The McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in Oklahoma, for example, sprawls across 45,000 acres (70 square miles) connected by rail and has a mission to transport as many as 435 shipping containers – each capable of carrying 15 tons (30,000 pounds) of ammunition – as by order of the president.

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The facility is also a major repository for one of the most commonly used munitions on Ukraine’s battlefield: 155mm howitzer rounds.

Ukraine’s demand for that particular grenade has put pressure on U.S. supplies and prompted the military to look at where else it could get them. As a result, tens of thousands of 155mm rounds have been returned from South Korea to McAlester to be retrofitted for Ukraine.

STORE WEAPONS IN EUROPE

According to a US military official, the US could send certain munitions to Ukraine “almost immediately” because warehouses exist in Europe.

Among the weapons that could go very fast are the 155mm rounds and other artillery, along with some air defense munitions. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss preparations that have not yet been made public.

A host of locations in Germany, Poland and other European allies are also helping Ukraine maintain and train systems sent to the front. For example, Germany has set up a maintenance center for Kiev’s Leopard 2 tank fleet in Poland, near the Ukrainian border.

The nearby maintenance centers speed up the turnaround time to make the necessary repairs to the Western systems.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

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