Robbing OCO to Fund Readiness

The House’s version of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act frees funding to “try to turn around” a decline in readiness that has hit the Air Force particularly hard, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said the House’s version of the defense bill, which takes $18 billion from requested overseas contingency operations funding to support base budget expenses, is needed to reverse a decline that has left the Air Force short 4,000 maintainers and 700 fighter pilots, and with less than half of the combat air forces ready for a high-end fight. The readiness question boils down to “are the people you send out on missions fully prepared and fully supported to succeed,” and the current funding situation means there is too large of a gap in capability and end strength, Thornberry said Thursday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. The administration is staunchly opposed to the OCO shift and Defense Secretary Ash Carter has urged President Obama to veto the NDAA if it is included. Thornberry said Thursday the House and Senate would conference to try to remedy differences in each version of the bill over the next “several weeks.”