Christine Fox, acting deputy defense secretary (US Defense Department)
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s 2015 war spending proposal is on hold as the US waits to see if Afghan officials approve a deal that would allow NATO forces to remain in the country beyond the end of the year, according to a senior DoD official.
President Obama on Tuesday directed the Pentagon to start contingency planning for a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
“As the United States military continues to move people and equipment out of the Afghan theater, our force posture over the next several months will provide various options for political leaders in the United States and NATO,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement on Tuesday.
“And during this time DoD will still continue planning for US participation in a NATO-led mission focused on training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces, as well as a narrowly focused counterterrorism mission.”
Numerous Defense Department budget and acquisition officials appearing at a conference sponsored by McAleese and Associates and Credit Suisse said the Pentagon’s war budget submission for 2015, known as Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO), is still in development.
“We can’t do an OCO budget until we know what our posture is going to be in Afghanistan and we don’t know that until we work through these political negotiations and make some hard decisions,” Christine Fox, acting deputy defense secretary, said at the conference. She noted, “our Afghanistan policy is right now a little bit on hold.”
DoD will submit an OCO placeholder when it sends its 2015 spending plan to Congress on March 4, Fox said.
Fox and Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said they expect the OCO budget to continue declining. Congress approved $85 billion for DoD’s Afghanistan operations in 2014.
“I don’t know what it will be in ’15 because we haven’t done a budget yet,” Hale said. ■