The details of the Pentagon’s portion of the FY20 budget request are slowly, slowly, dribbling out. And since the full request for all Defense programs (what’s called the 050 account for all you budget nerds out there) is a whopping $750 billion this year, this dribble is going to take a while.
You’ll remember from yesterday that Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) accounts for approximately $165 billion of that total. The specific amount is $164.6 billion but $400 million is literally not even a rounding error when you’re talking about this much money.
Today the dribble became more of a gush of data about the Pentagon numbers. And at page 16 of the summary of the budget briefing offered by the Pentagon Comptroller, we find some startling honesty. The Trump Administration is owning up to something TCS and other budget watchdogs have been saying for years: OCO is a giant slush fund. It’s no longer reserved for actual contingency operations that occur overseas. You’d think maybe they would come up with a new name and acronym to go along with all this honesty. Here is what the budget briefing lays out for us:
- $25.4 billion in this year’s request is for “Direct War Requirements” defined as “Combat or combat support costs that are not likely to continue once contingency operations end.”
- $41.3 billion is for “OCO for Enduring Requirements” described as “Enduring in-theater and CONUS costs that will remain after combat operations end.” CONUS, for the uninitiated, is the acronym for “CONtinental United States”. Okay, you know where we’re going here…if it’s in the continental United States that means, under the time and space continuum where we all exist, that it cannot be overseas. Imagine our blood pressure starting to rise now. And this leads us to the big whopper of an abuse.
- $97.9 billion is devoted to “OCO for Base requirements” which is defined as, “Base budget requirements financed in the OCO budget to comply with the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011.” (Emphasis added.) This isn’t complying, folks. This is evading the budget caps set back in 2011 and amended several times since. If the administration was complying with the BCA, they would have sent forth a Pentagon budget capped at $576 billion for FY20.
And there it is. In black, white, and navy blue. OCO is no more an account for overseas contingencies than the Tooth Fairy is actually slipping into your bedroom and putting an Eisenhower Silver Dollar under your pillow. Trust us. This has all been a monstrous lie for years. Time to end it.
The Pentagon puts it out there for everyone on the Hill to see: only $25.4 billion of this request is actually for combat costs that are not likely to continue. The rest of the $164.6 billion request is actually money the Tooth Fairy is stealing from under taxpayers’ pillows.
Congress, it’s time to end this charade. Appropriate $25.4 billion for OCO and be done with it.