Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — More rocket systems for Ukraine

iStock
iStock

The Pentagon on Friday unveiled an $820 million weapons package for Ukraine, including several more advanced air defense systems.   

We’ll detail what’s in the latest package, plus the new Navy probe into the fuel leak at a storage facility in Hawaii last year and what’s happening now that the COVID-19 vaccine deadline has passed for Army National Guard and Reserve troops.

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. Subscribe here.

Pentagon unveils $820M Ukraine security package

The Department of Defense on Friday unveiled an $820 million weapons package for Ukraine, which includes advanced air defense systems. 

  • Acting Pentagon press secretary Todd Breasseale said in a statement that $770 million of the assistance will be provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which allows the agency to procure the weapons from defense contractors.
  • The remaining $50 million in security aid will come from presidential drawdown authority, which allows the Pentagon to send Ukraine weapons from its own stockpiles. This will be the fourteenth drawdown of equipment under that authority since August 2021. 

Earlier: President Biden hinted at the security aid during a press conference on Thursday following a NATO summit in Madrid. 

During the press conference, Biden said that the U.S. would support Ukraine “as long as it takes” to make sure that it is not defeated by Russia. 

More rocket systems: The aid also follows a separate $450 million shipment of military aid to Ukraine announced last week, which included four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and patrol boats, among other equipment. 

With Friday’s announcement, the U.S. has committed $7.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including $6.9 billion since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24. 

Under the USAI, the Pentagon will procure two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, also known as Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems.

Read more here 

Navy: Leadership failure worsened Hawaii fuel leaks

Service officials’ failure to take charge in the days and months after two major fuel leaks last year at a Navy storage facility in Hawaii led to thousands of residents’ drinking water becoming contaminated, a newly released investigation found

The response from on-site leadership at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Oahu fell “unacceptably short of the Navy standards for leadership, ownership, and the safeguarding of our communities,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Lescher wrote in an endorsement of the report.   

  • The investigation centers around the May 6, 2021, and Nov. 20, 2021, fuel spills at Red Hill that contaminated a nearby well used by 93,000 people including Hawaii military families, sickening nearly 6,000.
  • The leak and the environmental damage it caused prompted the Pentagon to order the facility’s closure in March with the goal of fully defueling and shuttering Red Hill in the next year.

Accepting responsibility: In a call with reporters ahead of the report’s release, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Samuel Paparo said the Navy “accepts responsibility for what happened,” noting that it was the combined result of “multiple human errors over a period of several months.”

WHAT HAPPENED EXACTLY?

The spills in question include an initial release of some 20,000 gallons of fuel on May 6, after facility operators improperly began a transfer that spilled into a fuel suppression system.

  • At the time, the facility and its commanders didn’t realize the extent of the mishap, incorrectly believing only about 1,580 gallons had spilled. 
  • The fuel suppression system retention lines then held the bulk of the 20,000 gallons, the weight of which caused the PVC pipes to sag.
  • On Nov. 20, 2021, an operator hit the line with a small underground passenger train cart, causing the fuel to pour out.   

Why the delay?: Navy officials did not immediately act as they first believed the liquid was a mixture of fuel and water and there was no threat to the environment or to groundwater.

Service officials, not understanding all the paths to the well, insisted that fuel could not seep through concrete, according to the investigation.   

Paparo said that leaders on the scene in November were slow to correct initial reports that the November spill was water and made “overly optimistic assessments” that the fuel leak was contained. 

Disciplinary actions coming?: The probe does not make any recommendations on disciplinary or administrative actions for individuals involved, though Paparo noted that a “number of people” are “no longer in their assigned duties.” 

Read the full story here 

Army: Guard, Reserve forces need vaccine for drills

The Army announced Friday that members of its National Guard and Reserve components must be in compliance with its COVID-19 vaccine mandate to participate in drills.

  • In a statement, the service said members who have refused to be vaccinated without an approved or pending exemption cannot participate in federally funded training and will not receive pay or retirement credit.
  • The deadline for members of the Army National Guard or Reserve to be vaccinated passed on Thursday. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin mandated vaccinations for the military in August 2021 but allowed each service to implement its own deadlines.
  • The deadline for active-component Army personnel to be in compliance was Dec. 15, but reservists and Army National Guard members had until June 30 to be vaccinated. 

Current figures: Eighty-nine percent of the Army National Guard has received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Army’s statement, while 87 percent are fully inoculated. 

Similarly, 89 percent of the Army Reserve has received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 88 percent are fully vaccinated. 

Repercussions: In its statement, the Army said soldiers who refuse the order without an approved or pending exemption are subject to “adverse administrative actions,” like bars to service and official reprimands.   

Moving forward, soldiers who continue to refuse vaccination without an exemption may face additional adverse action, including separation. 

Read more here 

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. We’re off Monday for the Fourth of July holiday. See you next week! 

VIEW THE FULL EDITION HERE

Tags Biden russian invasion of ukraine ukraine Ukraine aid Vaccine mandates war in ukraine
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video