5 May 2016 Legislative News Update
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Thursday when Congress is in session.
WAR OF WORDS ERUPTS OVER OCO SPENDING
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has taken a negative position on the House Armed Services Committee’s plan to shift funds from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account to pay for the unrequested items in the defense authorization bill’s base budget.
The Committee’s plan means that the OCO account, which is exempt from budget caps, would only have enough money to fund overseas operations for half a year, requiring the next president to come back to Congress seeking additional funds for the remainder of fiscal 2017.
Carter said in a hearing before the Senate last week that the move amounts to “gambling” with troops' funding at a time of war and called it “deeply troubling” and “flawed.”
“It would spend money on things that are not DoD’s highest unfunded priorities across the joint force. It buys force structure without the money to sustain it and keep it ready, effectively creating hollow force structure, and working against our efforts to restore readiness,” Carter said.
Carter added that the House committee’s plan is a “step in the direction of unraveling the Bipartisan Budget Act,” which the secretary cited as giving the department much-needed budget stability.
“It’s another road to nowhere, with uncertain chances of ever becoming law, and a high probability of leading to more gridlock and another continuing resolution — exactly the kind of terrible distraction we’ve seen for years, that undercuts stable planning and efficient use of taxpayer dollars, dispirits troops and their families, baffles friends, and emboldens foes,” Carter said. “I cannot support such maneuvers.
Carter reiterated his position again this week telling reporters that he considers the move “objectionable on the face of it.”
Now, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry, R-Texas has fired back at the Secretary.
In a statement Thornberry said, “What’s objectionable is deploying troops who aren’t fully trained, whose equipment is worn out, and who didn’t get the resources they needed back home to be ready to face our enemies overseas. What’s objectionable is cutting the military well below levels anyone thinks is wise, denying our troops their pay raise for three years in a row, forcing them to live in crumbling barracks or work in hangars that have literally been condemned. I am determined to turn our readiness crisis around, even if I have to do it over the Secretary’s objections.”
The full House is expected to vote on the defense authorization bill for fiscal 2017 in mid-May. The Senate Armed Services Committee will start writing their version of the bill next week.