The Washington Post reported Sunday that Congress drafted a plan with input from the White House to authorize $1 billion in military aid for Taiwan annually under the presidential drawdown authority, which allows the US to ship weapons directly from Pentagon stockpiles.
The US has employed this authority to arm Ukraine, and the bulk of the over $19 billion in weapons pledged to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion have come from US military stockpiles. The authority allows the US to get weapons into the hands of Ukraine much more quickly than other forms of military aid that require purchasing arms.
The report said that the $1 billion has been attached to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is still being finalized. The Senate has also attached $10 billion in another form of military aid, known as Foreign Military Financing (FMF), for Taiwan that will be disbursed over the next five years.
FMF is a State Department program that gives foreign governments money to purchase US weapons. The FMF process takes much longer to get weapons in the hands of the recipient, as it requires a contract period, which often takes years. Together, the drawdown authority and FMF would give Taiwan $3 billion each year, making the island the second-highest recipient of annual US military aid after Israel.
The Post report said that Congress could have difficulty getting the military aid for Taiwan approved by the appropriations committees as it will require budget cuts elsewhere. Congressional aides told the Post that if the aid doesn’t make it through appropriations, the White House could ask Congress to authorize the Taiwan aid as emergency funds, which is what has been done for Ukraine.
The massive US push to arm Taiwan comes as tensions between the US and China are soaring over the island. While there’s no sign China is planning an invasion, it has stepped up its military pressure on the island in response to what it views as US provocations, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August visit to the island, which provoked Beijing’s largest-ever military drills in the region.
Lawmakers in Congress say they need to give Taiwan billions in weapons in the name of deterrence, even though it’s clear from China’s actions and rhetoric that increased US support for Taipei will make conflict more likely. “One of the lessons of Ukraine is that you need to arm your partners before the shooting starts, and that gives you your best chance of avoiding war in the first place,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI).
The Post report said that the new military aid for Taiwan could give the island anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-air defense systems, self-detonating drones, naval mines, command-and-control systems, and secure radios.