Procurement at the Heart of Everything

One of the most curious participants in the House impeachment inquiry has to be Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs, Laura Cooper.

In a lengthy opening statement Ms. Cooper reviewed the issue of procurement as it pertained to the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative (USAI).

At first, Ms. Cooper’s presence seemed out of place—that is until we understand the critical role procurement plays in the decision making process surrounding the USAI.

After all, it was procurement that drove the DoD (Department of Defense) and State Department to fraudulently submit certification to the OMB in mid-June 2019 stating that the dissolved Ukrainian parliament met the requirements imposed by the U.S. Congress for the release of the funds associated with the USAI.

It is worth remembering, upon taking office, one of President Zelenskyy’s first acts was to dissolve the Ukrainian parliament, calling for new elections to be held on July 21st 2019.

The dilemma, in order for the release of the funds associated with the USAI, Congress demanded the Ukrainian civilian government, the Ukrainian parliament, had to demonstrate control over the ministries of the Ukraine, especially the Ukrainian defense ministry.

The U.S. Congress also required the Ukrainian legislature display a future commitment to addressing corruption in the country.

The question: How does the DoD explain a non-entity meeting the conditions imposed by PL 115-232 (National Defense Authorization Act of 2019)?

The same can be asked of the State Department, which three days after the DoD submitted it’s own fraudulent claim on funds allocated by Congress in PL 116-6 (Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019).

(Note: PL—stands for Pubic Law, the first number following the PL designation indicates the Congressional body that created the legislation—i.e. 115th Congress, 116th Congress.)

The timing of the DoD and State Department actions, to say the least, was curious—that is until we understand the role of procurement.

It is important to note, the USAI is not dollars to be given to the Ukrainians—it’s military equipment and supplies (including armaments)—i.e. military aid.

The $391 million military aid consisted of $250 million associated with PL 115-232 and $141 million coming from PL 116-6.

The relevance of Laura Cooper becomes self-evident once we realize the $391 million in dollars had to be converted into contracts to purchase the military aid that would eventually be given to the Ukrainians.

The dilemma, the procurement process takes time.

The military aid doesn’t materialize out of thin air, nor does it come out of some massive DoD warehouse.

The military aid had to be purchased. Contracts had to be negotiated. Pricing had to be established. Quantities and delivery dates had to be agreed upon.

These are all elements of the procurement process—and it all takes time.

Another important factor: the DoD, or any federal agency, cannot initiate the purchasing process until the funds are in hand.

It cannot be overstated, the DoD had to have the funds in hand prior to initiating the purchasing process.

Furthermore, any funds allocated had to be spent in the fiscal year. Any unspent funds are not rolled over to the next fiscal year—they are forfeited.

In this light it becomes apparent why Ms. Cooper was included in the House impeachment inquiry.

The hold on the funding put the USAI in jeopardy.

If the hold was not lifted in a timely manner, Ms. Cooper’s group may not be able to establish the necessary contracts to deliver the full military aid package.

In the end, the procurement process drove the certification process, which in turn drove the DoD and State Department to request the OMB release the funds associated with the USAI, regardless of the fact there was no legitimate Ukrainian legislature in place at the time of the request.

Perhaps, no one should be surprised by the actions of the DoD, State Department and OMB—it’s just another example of the U.S. government at work.