The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) urged the Obama administration July 25 to send a supplemental funding request to Congress to pay for new military operations not covered in the president’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told reporters that he has heard “rumblings” in the Pentagon that officials estimate they will need an extra $6 billion or so to carry out military activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere that the administration did not anticipate when it released its FY ’17 budget request earlier this year.
Officials at the Department of Defense are “trying to get their arms around” how much money they need, Thornberry said. “Clearly, we need a supplemental.”
Thornberry said the amount is too big to take out of the regular budget because defense funding is “already stressed.” He also would oppose making a supplemental contingent on a corresponding increase in non-defense spending, as some policymakers have proposed in the past.
Thornberry’s committee, meanwhile, is reviewing the FY ‘16 omnibus reprogramming request that DoD recently sent to Capitol Hill. And with Congress on recess until September, staffers are trying to narrow the differences between the House and Senate versions of the FY ’17 defense authorization bill.
Thornberry, who visited Afghanistan and Iraq last week, said Afghan combat forces seem much-improved from the previous fighting season but that the Taliban and many others remain potent threats. He also expressed concern about the ability of Iraqi forces to hold ground it takes from ISIS.
He said his travels underscored the "tremendous amount of effort and dollars" required to maintain aging aircraft. And he criticized “artificial” caps on U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, saying they have forced the military to leave equipment maintainers at home and hire more expensive contractors to perform their duties.
Thornberry was joined on his trip by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel, and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who served four tours in Iraq as a Marine Corps infantry officer.