October 23, 2014

Overseas Funding Request Includes Questionable Items

  • Defense spending accounts for roughly half of the portion of the budget referred to as discretionary spending, which is determined through the annual...

The administration has requested $65.8 billion in funding for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account in 2015, including money for certain items that seem more appropriate for the military’s base budget.

The OCO account is exempt from discretionary spending caps while the base budget is not. Consequently, the OCO account is sometimes used to circumvent the caps, which were set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The administration’s OCO request, released last week, is well below the $79.4 billion “placeholder” figure in the President’s 2015 budget.

Under the administration’s own guidelines, the OCO account should be reserved for equipment, weapons and support in geographic areas where combat missions take place. The new request, however, includes funding for such things as the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund and the European Reassurance Initiative, both of which include activities not directly involved with combat missions.

On the domestic front, President Obama on Monday asked Congress for “emergency” funding of $2 billion to beef up immigration enforcement on the U.S.-Mexican border and provide humanitarian assistance to the large number of unaccompanied children who reportedly crossed the border in recent months.

Congress should evaluate the request for emergency designation of this funding -- which would exempt it from budget caps -- against the traditional criteria of “necessary, sudden, urgent, unexpected and temporary.” While the children are a legitimate concern, ideally the necessary spending for them as well as the enhanced enforcement should be offset elsewhere in the budget.