The House Budget Committee passed a fiscal 2016 proposal Thursday that would boost defense spending by adding money to a wartime funding account, to make up for caps on the Pentagon’s base budget, but defense leaders say that plan could run into problems.
The plan would keep defense spending at $523 billion, under caps mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which cut $500 billion from the Pentagon’s budget over 10 years, and were put into place when lawmakers failed to agree on tax and spending reform by 2013.
However, the plan would provide $90 billion in so-called war funding to the Pentagon’s overseas contingency operations (OCO) account, which is not subject to BCA caps.
But Pentagon comptroller Mike McCord said one problem is that the OCO funds could be unavailable for several months after the new fiscal year begins in October.
If the annual defense appropriations bill or some other means of funding does not get approved until December, lawmakers would not be able to use the OCO funding, he said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday.
In the past, lawmakers have approved a continuing resolution, or CR, to fund the Defense Department through the gap. However, a CR only allows for the prior year’s level funding to be extended.
OCO is $64 billion for 2015 and $94 billion for 2016, leaving a $30 billion gap.
“If this is done without an appropriation that is in line with it, you’re right. We would have that problem,” McCord told lawmakers.