Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., says the Pentagon needs to migrate its overseas contingency operations budget into its base spending accounts. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — A US congressman called on the Pentagon Tuesday to shift dollars from its war spending accounts back into its base budget.
The comments by Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., come a day before the House Armed Services Committee and two days before the House Budget Committee receive testimony from Defense Department officials on the Pentagon’s $58.6 billion 2015 overseas contingency operations (OCO) spending request. Wittman is the chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness subcommittee.
“I still believe decisions are made in a better fashion with a single discussion point and a single budgeting point,” Wittman said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast on Tuesday. “So, I would like to see all the OCO moved back into the baseline budget.”
Lawmakers want DoD to provide them with more details so they could determine how much of the OCO budget is for operating costs in Afghanistan and how much is for enduring missions.
“The operations that are ongoing right now are all ones that we know, that should be back in the base budget so we can have a continuity of strategy and of proper resourcing so you don’t have these two dialogues that go on,” Wittman said.
Budget analysts have said they estimate more than $30 billion in the OCO budget goes toward costs other than Afghanistan.
This year’s Pentagon OCO request also includes $1 billion in European security aid and $4 billion for a new DoD counterterrorism account.
“If we’re truly going to get a firm grip on the true cost of the total mission package and of the requirements within our military, we have to be able to figure out — to the penny — how much of OCO is part of enduring mission,” Wittman said.
The congressman said the Pentagon’s funding of anti-piracy missions has come through the OCO budget.
Nearly 50 congressional staffers met last week to discuss the Pentagon’s OCO request and what money within that budget should be migrated into the base budget.
“We are making sure that our members get the information about what’s going on and they understand proportionally too where defense falls in line with total efforts to address the deficit,” Wittman said.
“We have to get OCO back into the base budget because supplemental appropriations in the future are going to be ... a thing of the past,” he said.