Massive war budget remains despite Afghanistan pullout

Stephanie Gaskell, “Pentagon Wants to Keep Controversial War Budget Beyond Afghanistan,” 5 March 2014, Defense One

… But despite the massive drawdown, Pentagon officials want to keep a comparably oversized war chest funded well into next year, quickly raising eyebrows among members of Congress.

The fiscal year 2015 budget calls for $79 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, which funds the war in Afghanistan and other overseas operations. Although the U.S.footprint in Afghanistan has shrunk over the past couple of years, the war budget has stayed robust. This year Congress approved $85 billion for the account.

Total defense spending

The OCO budget ballooned over the past decade, hitting $187 billion in 2008, at the height of the Iraq War. It has often been used to fund other things besides war costs, especially after sequestration became law. Todd Harrison, budget analyst with the Defense Department-funded Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Defense News that about $20 billion in regular Army and Air Force operations and maintenance funding is being paid for by the OCO account this year. The Army and Marine Corps are using it to fund pay and benefits for 38,000 troops. “This is an uncapped funding stream that exists for DOD, and both the administration and Congress have been willing to use it to soften the impact of sequestration,” Harrison said. …

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