Last week, the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act, suggesting spending levels for the Pentagon for the coming fiscal year. The NDAA authorized $499 billion in regular spending for the Pentagon. On top of that, the bill authorized $90 billion for the Pentagon slush fund known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).
The OCO slush fund was originally designed to fund our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is now being used to help the Pentagon break existing spending caps. Nearly $40 billion of the proposed $90 billion in OCO funding for fiscal year 2016 has nothing to do with any current conflict. Here are some of the common misconceptions about the Pentagon’s slush fund:
With lawmakers attempting to ramp OCO funding back up to $90 billion in fiscal year 2016 from $64 billion fiscal year 2015, Americans might assume that the increase is needed to address relatively new threats, such as that from the Islamic State (or ISIS). But only about $5 billion of that total would be spent on the fight against ISIS.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has bemoaned the fact that the year-to-year nature of the slush fund poses a threat to long term strategy and planning, and has called the slush fund a “road to nowhere.”
The Budget Control Act of 2011 set spending caps for both defense and nondefense spending in fiscal year 2016. According to some members of Congress, the NDAA and budget resolution that recently passed require the Pentagon to live within its means as defined by that law.
That’s just not the case at all. Thanks to the slush fund, the Pentagon would get to live on its $499 base budget plus a generous $90 billion cushion. Meanwhile, domestic investment really has been held to the budget caps, cutting off investment in everything from infrastructure (including highways, air and rail transportation), education, housing, and everything else that our country needs to thrive.
In the coming weeks and months, the Senate will consider the NDAA, and the House and Senate will both take up defense appropriations bills. NPP has partnered with Win Without War to help make sure the Pentagon’s slush fund ends here and now.