Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, criticized the fiscal 2017 budget request that Defense Secretary Ash Carter outlined Tuesday for shortchanging national security.
Carter included extra funds in the request to boost the U.S. footprint in Europe and wage the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, but Thornberry slammed the secretary for failing to fund those priorities by sticking additional dollars in the department’s overseas contingency operations account (OCO).
“The secretary should not be allowed to mislead anyone,” he said. “The increase in counter-ISIS investments and deterrence of Russia are welcome and needed moves. But the president’s budget request, for example, does not add funds to accommodate the $7.5 billion in additional funding to counter ISIS or the $3.4 billion to deter Russia.”
In a background briefing with reporters, committee staff members said it appears the new priorities will be in the department’s base budget rather than in the OCO account, which doesn’t count against the Budget Control Act spending caps. That limits the Pentagon’s ability to invest in other modernization requirements and flouts last October’s budget agreement by treating the $59 billion in OCO funding as a maximum rather than a minimum, they said, reported the Hill.
The staff members, however, acknowledged their office hasn’t seen DOD’s complete budget proposal with a breakdown of what’s in the base budget and what’s in the OCO account.
“The administration is now choosing to ignore the deal,” Thornberry said. “The agreement provided a minimum investment in national security — the ‘lower ragged edge’ of what it takes to defend the country, plus an agreement that the rest of the OCO funding would reflect current operations and the current security environment,” he said.
“Once again, the responsibility to provide the appropriate level of funding to address these threats will fall to Congress,” Thornberry stated.