House Democrats will reject President Trump’s plan to significantly boost overseas contingency operations (OCO) funds in the fiscal year 2020 budget request, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and House Budget Committee leaders said Feb. 25.
The White House confirmed Monday its plan to use a boost in OCO funds to circumvent the spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act and to increase defense dollars without requiring a similar boost in domestic discretionary funds, Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a Monday op-ed for RealClearPolitics.
“Additional needed defense resources will be designated as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds, which are not subject to the spending caps,” Voight wrote, adding, “Fiscal conservatives may feel uncomfortable using OCO in this way. Yet, as long as Congressional Democrats insist on demanding more social spending in exchange for continuing to fund defense spending, expanding the use of OCO funds remains the administration’s only fiscally responsible option in meeting national security needs while avoiding yet another increase to the spending caps.”
HASC Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and House Budget Committee Chair Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) called the move “nothing more than a blatant attempt to make a mockery of the federal budget process, obscure the true cost of military operations, and severely shortchange other investments vital to our national and economic security” in a joint statement Monday.
“Democrats will reject this proposal … and will instead – with full transparency – pursue a course that invests in our national priorities and makes us stronger both at home and abroad.”
Multiple outlets have reported that the Trump administration plans to include up to $174 billion in OCO funds in the FY ’20 request – which would allow lawmakers to adhere to the budget cap amount of $576 billion for the base request, but in effect give the Pentagon $750 billion for the year.
Voight noted that the administration’s budget proposal will include a 5 percent budget reduction to “non-defense discretionary spending.”
“Within these constrained levels, agencies will still be able to provide investments in key national priorities,” he said.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chair, signaled in a Feb. 12 media roundtable that he could support an increased OCO request to get the U.S. military its $750 billion budget, a number he and other Republican lawmakers have advocated for in order for the department to maintain readiness levels, invest in critical new technologies and keep up with inflation costs.
“I think there’s going to be an exaggerated figure there in order to get up to what we have to have to defend America,” he said.