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Unpredictable Budgets Hard on Special Operations Forces

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U.S. Marine Corps
Thursday, May 04, 2017

The 30-year-old U.S. Special Operations Command faces special problems dealing with unpredictable budgets, its commander told Congress.

Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the 11th commander of the command based at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., said special operations forces “are more relevant than ever to the current and enduring threats facing our nation. We have been at the forefront of national security operations for the past three decades, to include continuous combat over the past 15½ years.”

Thirty percent of budget obligations for the command come from overseas contingency operating funds, known as OCO, Thomas said. “We are three or four times more dependent on OCO” than other military programs. “Therein lies the rub.”

OCO funds fluctuate based on the pace of ongoing operations, and can precipitously drop. Thomas fears what has become one of the U.S. military’s “most prominent forces” could have its ability to operate “absolutely undercut” by not being funded in the base defense budget. Testifying before a House Armed Services Committee panel, he described the Special Operations Command budget as “flatlined.”