U.S. Officials Struggle to Track Billions in Aid to Ukraine

As the Biden administration prepares to send billions of dollars in weapons and aid to Ukraine, U.S. officials are scrambling to track the money and ensure it is used appropriately.

According to a State Department cable obtained by POLITICO, American officials are turning to a variety of methods to monitor the funds, including blockchain technology and Ukrainian soldiers.

The cable, dated Sept. 6 and marked “sensitive but unclassified,” was sent from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and outlines the many challenges posed by the project.

For instance, the number of American officials on the ground is limited, making it difficult to meet with government officials, civil society leaders and other recipients of the aid.

Additionally, there are security constraints that limit their movements, making it difficult to find contractors who are willing to work in high-risk areas.

“Above all, kinetic activity and active combat between Ukrainian and Russian forces create an environment in which standard verification measures are sometimes impracticable or impossible,” according to the nine-page cable.

In response to these issues, the Biden administration is planning to hire an unnamed U.S. firm by February to implement a three-year initiative to help with the oversight effort.

The State Department cable outlines the efforts of the U.S. government to oversee the aid, including the use of a commercial smartphone app developed by the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations to upload all photo and video media onto a blockchain. This would allow for reliable evidence that the aid is reaching its intended recipients, even in dangerous or inaccessible regions.

In addition, the Defense Department is planning to have the Ukrainian Armed Forces conduct their own inspections to satisfy some of the stringent end-use monitoring requirements of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. These inspections would include verifying serial numbers for Switchblade drones and night-vision devices.

Moreover, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is also employing third-party monitoring by Deloitte to review and identify gaps, as well as requiring photo documentation of goods received by beneficiaries.

The cable comes as calls for strict monitoring of the funds and weapons flowing to Ukraine grow.

It remains to be seen if the new tracking system will be successful in enabling U.S. officials to track the money and monitor its use.