DOD May Need to Rely on War Account to Make up Budget Shortfall, Thornberry Says

If the fiscal 2016 budget resolution fails to provide spending beyond the statutory cap for DOD, lawmakers may use the Pentagon’s overseas contingency operations (OCO) account, which is not subject to the cap, to provide the department more funding, Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters Monday.

There are “a number of options that are being looked at,” he said, reported the Hill. “We’re just going to have to take it step by step and see.”  

Thornberry told reporters he and other committee members have discussed the possibility of increasing defense spending with members of the House Budget Committee. The chairman’s remarks come as both chambers’ budget committees are scheduled to mark up FY 2016 budget resolutions later this week.

The fiscally conservative chairs of the two budget committees — Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) — are expected to unveil budget blueprints that stick to the Budget Control Act caps despite the strong chorus of opposition from Thornberry, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other defense hawks in both chambers.

Thornberry and McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have called for spending $577 billion for national security in FY 2016, a level which surpasses both President Obama’s $561 billion budget request and the $523 billion cap mandated in the Budget Control Act.

On Monday, Thornberry said spending on national security should not fall below the administration’s $561 billion request. 

Meanwhile, McCain on Monday warned his Republican colleagues that they risked jeopardizing the nation’s security if they don’t provide DOD relief from the defense spending cap.

“We cannot afford to defer this vital debate. All of our senior military leaders have testified to Congress this year that if defense spending remains at sequestration levels, they cannot implement the national military strategy, and it will put Americans’ lives at risk,” McCain said, reported the Hill.

“Preventing this catastrophic outcome and providing for our national defense is the most fundamental test of our responsibility to govern. Republicans cannot afford to fail this test,” he said.


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