Putting a hold on congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine was appropriate and routine, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in a memo published by news outlets on Dec. 11.
“OMB took appropriate action, in light of a pending policy process, to ensure that funds were not obligated prematurely in a manner that could conflict with the Presidents foreign policy,” OMB general counsel Mark Paoletta wrote in the memo.
President Donald Trump asked about the Department of Defenses plans for $250 million in aid for Ukraine and the OMB started discussions with the Pentagon about the aid. A pause was placed on the aid but the Pentagon never told the office that it was prevented from obligating funds, and data from the department indicated it wasnt going to obligate most of the aid until mid-to-late September, Paoletta said.
The aid was released on Sept. 12.
Congress approved $391 million in aid for Ukraine this year in two separate actions. $115 million was earmarked under the Foreign Military Financing Program and submitted to Congress on Sept. 11. The funds could not be apportioned for at least 15 days due to a statutory congressional notification period, Paoletta said. The funds were apportioned and obligated on Sept. 30, similar to how the previous fiscal years funding was obligated on Sept. 28, 2018.
Paoletta said that the review of the aid was part of the Executive Branchs constitutional duty.
“The executive branch has a duty to taxpayers to ensure that appropriations are spent wisely, in accordance with statutory requirements. As stewards of taxpayer funds, OMB always has and will continue to take seriously its legal duty to oversee agency spending, and apportion funds appropriately, in accordance with … applicable laws,” he wrote.
He also said that Congressional committees have put holds on billions of dollars of congressionally approved aid in the last three fiscal years, including a hold of 321 days.
“If compliance with constitutionally non-binding directives from congressional committees to hold funds is not a deferral, then certainly a delay in obligating funds arising from a presidential direction that a policy process is necessary prior to making obligations cannot be,” he wrote.
Paoletta sent the memo to Tom Armstrong, general counsel of the Government Accountability Office.
A senior White House official told The Epoch Times in October that the aid was ultimately sent on or ahead of schedule.