OMB Chief Rips GOP’s Resort to ‘Budget Gimmicks’

Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan on Monday reiterated the administration’s concerns about the Republicans’ strategy for bypassing the statutory spending caps by stashing extra funds in the Defense Department’s war account, in a letter to the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The letter was timed to coincide with Tuesday’s markup of the committee’s fiscal 2016 defense spending bill.

Donovan said the administration has “serious concerns about this legislation, which would underfund these important investments in the base budget and instead rely on budget gimmicks that have been criticized by members of both parties. The legislation also includes highly problematic riders and provisions that would preclude needed reforms.”

The White House has previously threatened to veto spending bills that adhere to the Budget Control Act caps, an argument Donovan reprises in his letter. The OMB director also criticizes the GOP’s budget framework for shifting costs that should be funded in the base budget to DOD’s overseas contingency operations (OCO) account.

“By paying for base budget costs using OCO funds, the subcommittee bill fails to provide the stable, multi-year budget on which defense planning is based,” he states.

“The subcommittee’s deliberate relabeling of non-war costs as OCO clearly violates OCO funding’s purpose,” Donovan adds.

A White House official told Defense News that the Republican leaders’ decision to stick to the budget caps as way to control spending while at the same time rejecting many of the administration’s cost-cutting reforms is inconsistent.

“I think it’s quite ironic that a bill that has the veneer of curbing costs by maintaining sequestration and goes to such lengths to maintain that veneer — by using that gimmick — then turns around and blocks a variety of needed reforms that DOD needs to take in order to fully achieve the defense strategy, even at the funding levels in the president’s budget,” the official said.

Donovan highlights several proposals the House’s defense spending bill ignores, including divesting unneeded force structure, slowing growth in compensation and reducing overhead.

“The subcommittee bill would constrain DOD’s ability to align military capability and force structure with the president’s defense strategy and to reduce unneeded costs,” Donovan said.

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