The Pentagon discovered accounting errors that overestimated how much it had spent on aid for Ukraine by $6.2 billion over two years. But social media posts misinterpreted the discovery to falsely claim the U.S. “lost” $6.2 billion or laundered money through Ukraine. The $6.2 billion will be added to future aid packages for Ukraine.
The U.S. has approved more than $113 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in early 2022, according to an April oversight update from the U.S. Department of Defense.
But at a press briefing on June 20, the Pentagon said accounting errors had been made in determining the costs of equipment sent to Ukraine in fiscal years 2022 and 2023.
“During the department’s regular oversight of our execution of presidential drawdown authority [PDA] for Ukraine, we discovered inconsistencies in equipment valuation for Ukraine,” Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said, referring to the authority the administration has to quickly deliver equipment from Defense Department stockpiles to foreign countries.
In many cases in its accounting, the Defense Department “used replacement costs rather than net book value, thereby overestimating the value of the equipment drawn down from U.S. stocks and provided to Ukraine,” Singh said.
After the errors were found, the Pentagon comptroller issued guidance on March 31 on how to properly determine the value of equipment for more accurate accounting.
“We have confirmed that for F.Y. ’23 the final calculation is $3.6 billion and for F.Y. ’22 it is $2.6 billion, for a combined total of $6.2 billion,” Singh said. “These valuation errors in no way limit or restricted the size of any of our PDAs or impacted the provision of support to Ukraine.”
The Defense Department had previously reported a $3 billion error in May, then later revised it up to $6.2 billion, Reuters reported. The $6.2 billion will be added back into the drawdown package for future aid to Ukraine.
But posts on social media misrepresent the accounting errors, falsely claiming that the Pentagon inadvertently sent an additional $6.2 billion to Ukraine.
Conservative commentator Terrence K. Williams posted a 10-minute video on Facebook with the claim, which he called an example of “money laundering.”
“Pentagon said we ACCIDENTALLY SENT $6.2 BILLION DOLLARS to UKRAINE. Accounting error? This is straight up money laundering,” read the caption on Williams’ video.
Another Facebook post said, “The news has everyone focused on this submarine, while simultaneously telling us that they just lost 6.2 billion of our tax dollars. They quoted, ‘it was a little accounting error.’ That money went to Ukraine.”
But as we said, the posts got the facts wrong. The errors resulted in an overvaluation of weapons previously sent to Ukraine, and the Pentagon has more money than it initially thought to provide additional supplies to Ukraine.
In response to a reporter’s question at the press briefing, Singh, the Pentagon spokesperson, said that the $6.2 billion will be “reallocated” to future packages.
Reporter, June 20: I don’t expect you to know this off the top of your head, but can you get a written answer in terms of where that $6.2 billion is going to be spent now? This is all PDA money, I assume.
Singh: This is all PDA money. We wouldn’t have it broken down. It would just be money that’s reallocated into presidential drawdown packages.
Reporter: Yes. Can you check to see if there’s going to be specific line items that they’re going to use the money for?
Singh: We would not. It’s another pot of money that we have access to, so when we have our next presidential drawdown package to roll out, it’s not like we’re going to have, like, allocated here, this is $6 billion that we, you know, have found through our reevaluation. It’s just going to go back into the pot of money that we have allocated for the PDAs, and we will roll out the next package when we have that announcement.
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Singh, Sabrina. “Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh Holds a Press Briefing.” U.S. Department of Defense. 20 Jun 2023.
Reuters. “Pentagon’s Ukraine accounting error revised up to $6.2 billion.” 20 Jun 2023.
Congressional Research Service. “U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine.” 15 Jun 2023.
U.S. Department of State. Fact sheet. “Use of Presidential Drawdown Authority for Military Assistance for Ukraine.” 14 Jun 2023.
U.S. Department of Defense. “Oversight Update: Ukraine Assistance.” Apr 2023.
Spencer, Saranac Hale. “U.S. Spent Much More in Afghan War Than in Support for Ukraine So Far, Contrary to Online Claim.” FactCheck.org. 3 Feb 2023.