October 23, 2019

Fact Sheet: DOD Certified that Ukraine Met Corruption Benchmarks

TRUMP-UKRAINE SCANDAL

Fact Sheet: DOD Certified that Ukraine Met Corruption Benchmarks

The Claims: President Trump and senior administration officials have claimed that security assistance to Ukraine was held up because they were concerned the assistance would be diverted. For example:

  • Trump said, “why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?” [Roll Call, 9/23/19].
  • Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said that “the corruption in the country” was one of three key reasons the assistance was withheld. [Press briefing, 10/17/19].
  • According to Secretary Pompeo, assistance was held up because of concerns that “the money wouldn’t flow to the mission that it was intended for” and to therefore “ensure that there wasn’t corruption in Ukraine that would divert these resources to an inappropriate place.” [Interview with George Stephanopoulos, 10/20/19].

But DOD Had Twice Certified Ukraine’s Progress on Corruption: Long before President Trump ordered a halt to security assistance, the Secretary of Defense—in coordination with Secretary Pompeo—twice certified that Ukraine had made sufficient reforms to decrease corruption and increase accountability, and that the country could ensure accountability for U.S. provided military equipment. Further, after OMB held the assistance to Ukraine in July, the Department of Defense (DOD) conducted an additional analysis and concluded that the assistance was effective and should be resumed. [Amb. Taylor testimony, 10/22/19]. Finally, before the July 2019 hold, the Trump administration had approved sending foreign assistance to Ukraine nearly 50 separate times without ever holding it because of concerns that it would be diverted due to corruption.

Congress Mandated Corruption Certifications: In 2016, Congress began requiring a certification for a portion of the funds from the congressionally-created Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. [P.L. 114-328, FY2017 NDAA]. To spend more than half of the authorized funds, DOD, in coordination with the State Department, must certify that certain anti-corruption reforms have taken place. The eligible amount has varied based on authorizations, but, for FY2019, $125 million was subject to certification.

The Certifications: DOD’s certifications specifically noted that Ukraine had improved its ability to ensure accountability of U.S.-provided military equipment—raising the question of why Pompeo did not trust an assessment that he had twice approved. To issue the certification, DOD assessed civilian control of the military, oversight of the military, transparency and accountability in defense procurement, and inventory management in the defense industrial sector, among other things. DOD certified both times that substantial actions had been taken sufficient to comply with the law.

  • On July 13, 2018, DOD certified that Ukraine had taken actions sufficient to release security assistance funds. DOD cited passage of a national security law that supported reforms for civilian control of the military, parliamentary oversight of the defense sector, and transparency in defense budgets. Notably, the assessment stated that Ukraine had improved its ability to ensure accountability for U.S. provided equipment. [DOD CN].
  • On May 23, 2019, DOD again certified that Ukraine had taken substantial actions to decrease corruption, increase accountability, and sustained improved combat capability enabled by U.S. assistance. DOD recommended providing $125 million in military assistance, including for counter-artillery radars and defensive weapons. According to DOD, the U.S. had helped Ukraine advance reforms, including adopting legislation to reform defense procurement, and strengthened civilian control of the military reform. The certification further noted that Ukraine had improved its ability to ensure accountability for U.S. provided equipment. [DOD CN]. 

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