Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee on Defense, delivered remarks on the Senate floor today to combat the misrepresentation being spread about the national security supplemental package.
A transcript of Senator Collins’ remarks are as follows:
“Mr. President, the national security supplemental before us is of profound importance to America’s security. It will provide updated, modern effective munitions to our troops, rebuild our flagging defense industrial base, allow our Navy to continue its vital operations in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, and support our allies.
“Now, Mr. President, time does not permit me to correct every misunderstanding and misrepresentation about this bill that we have heard on the Senate floor and elsewhere, but I do want to correct some of the most egregious misstatements because the American people should have the facts.
“The defense supplemental bill before us would strengthen our own military by providing $35 billion to restore our military readiness, modernize our arsenal of democracy, and rebuild our defense industrial base.
“It would send a strong message to Putin that his goal – his dream – of capturing free, democratic nations like Ukraine will not be allowed to succeed. It would reassure our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel, which is battling terrorists who have killed more Israelis, more Jews, in a single day than since the Holocaust, who have taken as hostages babies and the elderly, and who are using innocent Palestinians as human shields.
“It would help deter a rising and menacing China, whose navy now exceeds the size of our own. Each of these investments is in our self-interest. It makes America more secure.
“A claim was made yesterday that this bill ‘gives $238 million to increase U.S. troop deployments to Europe.’ The implication was that this bill increases funding to send U.S. troops into combat in Ukraine.
“That is simply not true. The funding in this bill supports through the end of the year U.S. service members who are principally in Poland and Germany working with our allies to train and equip the courageous Ukrainians. The Ukrainians are the ones who are doing the fighting and taking the casualties. No American soldiers are dying on the Ukrainian battlefield. And we are training and equipping the Ukrainians because it is the right thing to do but also in America’s self-interest.
“The best way to ensure that the United States is not drawn into a larger regional war in Europe, in which our troops could be put at risk, is by helping Ukraine defend itself against this brutal, unprovoked invasion. If Russia prevails in Ukraine, Putin will be in a position to threaten our NATO allies all along Ukraine’s border, including Poland, and one of our newest members, Finland.
“What we are doing through this bill is to greatly diminish the risk that the United States could be drawn into these larger conflicts. History is filled with examples of well-intentioned leaders who sought to avoid war, but who actually made war more likely by refusing to recognize the evil with which they were confronted. Neville Chamberlain declared ‘peace in our time’ trying to appease Germany before World War II began. We should not make that same mistake today.
“Another charge that I heard yesterday is that Europe is not doing enough to support Ukraine and that the way to get them to do more is for us to do less. Again, this assertion is false.
“In terms of security assistance provided to Ukraine as a percentage of GDP – the only fair way to measure it, the United States ranks 15th globally – 15th. Estonia ranks number one. Estonia has the same population as the State of Maine – 1.3 million people, yet it has provided 10 times as much as a percentage of its GDP as our country has to help the Ukrainians.
“On February 1, the European Council unanimously approved a four-year Ukraine Facility economic assistance package worth $54 billion. That equals nearly $13.5 billion per year. And that is on top of what other countries have already provided, which is approximately $63 billion in non-security assistance.
“Now, Mr. President, I want to stress that throughout this process, which began last October, included extensive hearings and much consultation, we did not rubber stamp the Biden Administration’s budget request. Many changes were made throughout the process but let me just touch on three.
“First, the President requested $11.8 billion for direct budget support for Ukraine. We reduced that amount by $4 billion – more than 30 percent. Furthermore, that budget support will phase out over time. This assistance, however, is critical because it helps ensure that Russia cannot win this war by utterly destroying Ukraine’s economy as Putin is trying to do and it allows Ukraine to focus more of its national resources on the war effort.
“Second important change – this bill also includes a clear and strict prohibition on funding in this bill and in prior appropriations from being used for any kind of financial support to United Nations Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA.
“Yesterday’s news that the Hamas tunnel was found under UNRWA’s headquarters in Gaza and that Hamas was using UNRWA’s electricity to power a command and control section underneath the headquarters underscores the need to ensure that not a single penny of taxpayer funds is provided to that agency – much less the $400 million that was in the President’s original request.
“And I would note that the evidence is overwhelming that 12 employees of UNRWA directly participated in the October 7 horrific attacks on Israel and the estimates are that about ten percent of their employees are involved in terrorist groups. This organization is thoroughly infiltrated by Hamas and other groups.
“Third, we included strict guardrails for all the humanitarian assistance for Gaza. By March 1, USAID and the State Department have to have procedures, processes, and policies in place that are developed in consultation with Israel to ensure that money is not diverted from the legitimate humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians to terrorist groups like Hamas.
“Now, it was suggested on the floor yesterday that we have no oversight of this assistance and no way of knowing where it is going.
“That is simply wrong. USAID delivers direct budget support through a World Bank mechanism whereby the funds that are released to the government of Ukraine are done so on a reimbursement basis for verified, pre-agreed categories of expenditures only.
“In addition, USAID employs a rigorous monitoring system that involves two international accounting firms, Deloitte and KPMG to audit this assistance. We’ve increased funding for the Office of Inspector General for both Ukraine funding and for the Gaza funding.
“Let me discuss also the support that we provide Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan through the transfer of weapons and equipment from our stockpiles. A concern was raised on the floor yesterday that this would leave our own military vulnerable and without enough weapons.
“It’s important to remember that this bill includes $35 billion to restore U.S. military readiness and modernize our arsenal of democracy. For every dollar of authority provided to transfer weapons to Ukraine in this bill, there is $2.50 to replenish U.S. military stockpiles. And most of the time, this allows us to replace those older items with more modern, effective, and improved weapons.
“In the case of Israel, many of the weapons systems, such as Iron Dome and David’s Sling, are co-produced by both the U.S. and Israel.
“The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment has said ‘production is deterrence.’ The supplemental includes $8.3 billion in historic investments to greatly expand our production capacity. This funding will result in a strong, resilient munitions industrial base capable of surging to meet the threats facing our country.
“But if we do not pass this supplemental now, none of these investments will occur.
“Mr. President, I encourage my colleagues to support this bill. There’s so many other misrepresentations that I wish I had time to counter today.
“Let me tell you that this funding is desperately needed to strengthen America's military readiness, to help Ukraine counter brutal Russian aggression, to assist our closest ally in the Middle East – Israel – in its fight against terrorism, and to deter a rising and menacing China.
“Mr. President, in American history, it was our very first President, George Washington, who used the term ‘Peace through Strength’ in his fifth State of the Union address. Centuries later, President Ronald Reagan reminded us of the vital importance of Peace through Strength.
“That is the goal of the legislation before us. That is what it will accomplish as we meet the challenge of the perilous times in which we live.
“Thank you, Mr. President.”