U.S. Sen. John Kennedy's recent comments to reporters in Baton Rouge regarding U.S. foreign military aid to the Ukraine demonstrate either an ignorance of how our military aid programs work and/or a clumsy attempt to defend President Donald Trump.
"If a president thinks as soon as he sends the money it is going to be stolen, I think there are rules that allow them to hold it up." After serving most of my 25 years in the Army supervising and managing foreign military aid programs at the national, theater, and embassy levels, I can attest that we don't just "send" $391 million to a foreign country to do with as they please, and the potential for theft — at least at the level implied by Kennedy — is extremely low.
The vast amount of our aid comes in the form of highly regulated credits, not blank checks, to buy U.S. defense industry goods and services. Every step of the process from procurement to end-use monitoring is carefully supervised by multiple U.S. agencies, all of whom are subject to routine internal and external inspections.
Furthermore, U.S. military officers serving in our embassies are tasked to ensure the proper storage, security, and use of our gifted assistance via routine inspections. Frankly, our military aid systems are designed to prevent misappropriation because many of the countries we are trying to help have problems with corruption. Our aid just doesn't walk away on a significant scale — at least not more than once — and to imply that Trump was justified in holding up military assistance to Ukraine, a country with a demonstrable need and proven track record, because it might be "stolen" is ridiculous.
Col. Aaron Merrill
U.S. Army, retired