WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are seeking to compel a resistant U.S. administration to provide Army Tactical Missile Systems to Ukraine as it fends off Russia.
In the House Armed Services Committee chairman’s mark of the fiscal 2024 defense policy bill, the committee calls for “not less than $80.0 million be used for the procurement of [ATACMS] for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”
According to the draft legislation released June 12, the committee wants the defense secretary to brief congressional defense committees by the end of the year on the availability of ATACMS for Ukraine and on progress using Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding to buy them.
The Lockheed Martin-made ballistic missile has been in service since 1991 and has a range of 300 kilometers. Ukraine has repeatedly asked for ATACMS and President Joe Biden has come under pressure from lawmakers to send them.
But the Biden administration has said it’s concerned that sending ATACMS could deplete U.S. stockpiles and that there’s potential they’d be used to strike Russian territory, despite Kyiv’s promises to only deploy them in Ukraine.
“I’m not in the business of making announcements about what the department or the government is going to provide to Ukraine,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said during a June 13 media briefing at the Pentagon when asked about the proposed legislation.
But “I don’t think that there’s been a change in thinking in this building about ATACMS,” she added. “Most of Congress really wants to support Ukraine and I think has been pushing the department and the administration to lean into that as much as possible, but I don’t think that there’s a new view on ATACMS at this point.”
According to a senior HASC aide not authorized to speak on the record, the provision would call for newly produced ATACMS, not ones from existing U.S. stockpiles.
Lockheed Martin most recently received a fiscal 2020 contract for ATACMS worth $426 million, according to the contractor’s website. Eight other countries have already received the missile: Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey, Greece, South Korea, Romania and Poland.
Australia, Estonia, Lithuania, Morocco, and Taiwan have either ordered or have been approved to buy ATACMS through foreign military sales over the last several years.
The ATACMS can be fired from a High Mobility Artillery Rockets System, or HIMARS, launcher, which is already in use in Ukraine, and a M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.