Faced with a shrinking and automatically capped military budget in 2016, the Republican majority on the House Budget Committee wants to get around the spending cap by using the Overseas Contingency Operations fund — and raising it from $51 billion to $94 billion. The fund, often referred to as the war fund, is an addition to the regular defense budget and is set aside to deal with overseas conflicts, such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, in which U.S. involvement continues despite ending officially in 2011 and 2014, respectively.
In recent years, the war fund, which is exempt from the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, has been tapped to compensate for reductions in the Pentagon budget. Rather than cut an aircraft carrier or fleet of aircraft, for example, the Armed Services committees of both the House and the Senate would turn to the war fund to keep them operational for another fiscal year.
The war fund suggestion is contained in the 2016 “Balanced Budget” report (text here), delivered by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., chairman of the Budget Committee. The report suggested $5.5 trillion in cuts to the federal budget over 10 years. The only notable increase is for the war fund.
“In effect, the House Budget Committee is proposing to have their fiscal discipline and eat their defense increase at the same time,” Gordon Adams, a senior White House budget official for national security under President Bill Clinton, told Foreign Policy. “If this is responsible governing, Congress-style, the House Budget Committee has failed the test.”