Keeping the Relief Valve Open

Defense budget analyst Todd Harrison warned Tuesday that if sequestration remains in effect, Congress may have to take another look at big ticket procurement items, including the Air Force’s top acquisition programs—the F-35A strike fighter, the KC-46A tanker, and the Long-Range Strike Bomber. Addressing a forum at AFA’s Air & Space Conference at National Harbor, Md., the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment analyst said the Administration’s five-year future budget proposals is $116 billion over the sequestration budget caps, which could force deep cuts in programs. That could get worse if Congress would stop its current practice of moving about $10 billion a year from the base defense budget to the overseas contingency operations (OCO) fund, which is supposed to be only for the war in Afghanistan and is not limited by the budget caps. “This has become a relief valve, and I fully expect it to continue. But the risk for the (Defense) Department is if Congress doesn’t allow this to continue,” he said.