Unaccounted for: The Troubling Truth about Weapons Sent to Ukraine

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Over billion worth of weapons sent to Ukraine by the Department of Defense were not properly tracked, according to a new report from the Department of Defense Inspector General. The report states that small weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles, one-way attack drones, and night-vision devices, were not adequately accounted for. The delinquent serial numbers account for 59% of the total value of the weapons sent to Ukraine.

Concerns Over Oversight

Lawmakers are now demanding greater oversight as Congress considers sending more military assistance to Ukraine. The Pentagon sent the report to Congress on Wednesday, and a redacted version was released on Thursday. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby addressed the findings at a press briefing and largely justified the lack of accountability by citing the active warzone and the risk of sending personnel to conduct inventory on the frontlines.

Improvements and Limitations

Kirby acknowledged that the Department of Defense has made some improvements in tracking the weapons, such as implementing handheld scanners and increasing personnel at the embassy in Ukraine. However, he also highlighted the limitations of counting every single bullet and artillery shell in a combat environment. Despite these challenges, Kirby emphasized that there is no evidence of widespread diversion or illicit use of the weapons.

Inventory Disruptions

The report explains that before the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, U.S. embassy personnel in Ukraine were responsible for inspecting and documenting serial number inventories of new defense articles. However, after employees were ordered to evacuate Kyiv, the inventory process was disrupted. Since then, improvements have been made in the inventory process and delinquency rate.

Logistical Challenges

The report acknowledges the logistical and personnel limitations faced by Office of Defense Cooperation personnel in Ukraine. These challenges prevented them from conducting inventories of all defense articles before transferring them to Ukraine. Additional staff was relocated to logistics hubs in a partner nation to conduct initial inventories, but the geographic distance between the hubs posed a challenge.

High-Risk Items

While the report does not provide an exact number, it states that out of the 39,139 high-risk pieces of material given to Ukraine, a significant portion were considered “delinquent.” The U.S. has provided Ukraine with over 10,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles, 2,500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, 750 Kamikaze Switchblade drones, 430 medium-range air-to-air missiles, and 23,000 night vision devices.

Call for Greater Oversight

The lack of proper tracking and accountability for these weapons has raised concerns among lawmakers who are calling for greater oversight. As the situation in Ukraine continues to evolve, it is crucial to ensure that military assistance is being used appropriately and not ending up in the wrong hands.

In conclusion, the Department of Defense Inspector General’s report highlights the need for improved tracking and accountability of weapons sent to Ukraine. While there have been some improvements, logistical challenges and the nature of the conflict present limitations. It is essential for Congress and the Department of Defense to work together to address these issues and ensure that military assistance is effectively utilized in Ukraine’s defense.