Why Does the Tool Exclude Department of Defense Operations and Maintenance?

Why Does the Tool Exclude Department of Defense Operations and Maintenance?

National Security  | Data & Documents
Jun 1, 2017  | 5 min read

The Pentagon’s Operations and Maintenance (O&M) budget lines are a significant portion of each year’s budget request.

As a reference point, in the Fiscal Year 2018 request from the Trump administration, the combined Department of Defense base budget request and Overseas Contingency Operations account request is $639 billion. Of that total more than one-third, $272 billion, is for O&M accounts.

This O&M account funds the “recruiting, organizing, sustaining, equipping, and training” of Army personnel, according to that service’s section of the budget documents. In the same budget justification document, the Department of the Navy description of its O&M request defines it as financing “the day-to-day costs of operating naval forces, including fuel, supplies, and maintenance of ships, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, related weapon systems, and the support establishment ashore.”

The Air Force gets its own paragraph here because, as anyone familiar with the military services’ very different approaches to Congressional and public relations knows, the Air Force uses at least three sentences where one would suffice:

“The Operation and Maintenance (O&M) appropriation finances the capabilities to provide global vigilance, global reach, and global power to ensure that the joint force prevails in today’s fight, delivering unmatched combat capability while sustaining new or expanding capabilities and force structure to meet future evolving challenges. O&M funds are used to operate, sustain, and maintain aircraft, space and related weapons systems; train and develop Airmen; operate advanced communications, command and control systems; purchase critical supplies, equipment and fuel; and operate both stateside and overseas installations. O&M resources directly support essential combat enablers such as: intelligence, weather, air traffic control, search and rescue, reconstitution, airfield, runway and base facility maintenance, and improvements to the working and living conditions for Air Force personnel.”

The Air Force is kind of like that kid in your 6th grade class who sat in the front row and always raised his hand, no matter what question the teacher asked. “Pick me! I know! I can give the best answer!” The Air Force just can’t help itself.

Unfortunately, the O&M slice of the budget pie is so large and all-encompassing that the budget lines don’t drill down to the level of detail required to capture cyber-specific funding. In other portions of the Pentagon budget, procurement, research and development, etc, the budget justification documents are all heavily detailed in just exactly what topics are covered in that budget line.

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Why Don’t the Numbers Match?

In some cases the exact cyber spending in a given budget line is unknowable in an unclassified setting. So, while we can’t always state that all of a budget line or program is being spent directly on cyber, the lines are still discrete enough to add texture to the budget picture. That is not the case in O&M funding. A budget line may include something titled “Cyber Network Operations” but that line is rolled up into a much larger O&M budget line of several billion dollars. Including that line in the data visualization tool would skew the results to such high numbers that it would no longer be informative. For instance, the Navy’s O&M budget line, “Combat Support Forces,” indicates that it includes some level of funding for cyber activities. However, overall funding for that line, and the identical line in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account ranges from $2.6 billion to $1.7 billion per year depending on the particular operational tempo of the Navy in that year. To include an average of $2 billion to the Navy’s “cyber” total of spending in a given fiscal year would be misleading and make the cyber tool less useful.

However, we did do all the research to find those O&M lines that include cyber spending. And we also identified the fiscal years in which that spending appears. We are appending that database for O&M scholars who wish to do further research into how cyber spending is affecting the unclassified O&M budgets.