OCO Boost Better Than Nothing, Still Not Good Enough

The $3.2 trillion government-spending bill, which the House approved March 25 with a vote of 228-199, does not do much to improve the Defense Department’s worsening readiness crisis, even with the extra $20 billion in war funds, said several members of the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness panel on Thursday. Congressional and defense leaders agreed the overseas contingency operations boost is better than nothing, but said there are still plenty of restrictions, which will affect overall readiness levels. The Air Force, for example, is “very capital intensive” and relies on multi-year contracts to get the best deal on expensive procurement programs, such as the F-35 strike fighter, the Long-Range Strike Bomber, and the new aerial refueling tanker, said USAF Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer. OCO rules also allow the service to replace munitions expended in war, but it doesn’t allow the Air Force to “budget for projected weapons that we’re going to use,” said Spencer. “So, it puts us behind by a year.” Subcommittee ranking member, Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), said the budget resolution “undermines defense and uses gimmicks to act like we’ve truly boosted defense spending.” Panel Chair Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) acknowledged that an OCO-driven budget is not the best solution, but said, it “does allow the appropriators and the authorizers to get to the $613 billion number, so it does allow at least some relief.” (Spencer prepared testimony)