Getting Back to the Base

The Pentagon’s $585.3 billion budget proposal for Fiscal 2016 includes $50.9 billion to support overseas contingency operations. This funding would cover activities ranging from training and assisting Afghan security forces ($3.8 billion) to counter-ISIS operations ($5.3 billion), bolstering the US presence in Eastern Europe in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine ($789 million), and resetting and retrograding US military hardware ($7.8 billion). Asked why procurement dollars continue to migrate to the OCO budget, Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Navy Adm. James Winnefeld told reporters on Monday he’d be the first to admit that “too much” money has crept into OCO “on the investment side,” but the Pentagon needs to fix the problem gradually. “We can’t do it overnight; that would be a big bill,” he said. The Pentagon leadership is working on a plan for Fiscal 2017 that would complete the transition of those costs back into the main budget in Fiscal 2020, said Winnefeld. Because of demand, DOD is now undertaking a “running reset” after 13 plus years of war, Deputy Defense Security Bob Work told reporters during the budget briefing with Winnefeld. In order to preserve modernization, the joint force will not return to “full-spectrum combat readiness” until 2020 to 2023, he said. Migrating OCO costs back to the base budget is only possible if Budget Control Act spending caps are lifted, noted Work. Putting those dollars back in the base budget without addressing the caps would ensure a $20 billion-some cut to DOD’s topline, he said. (Work-Winnefeld transcript)