On September 8th, the Pentagon sent the Congress a request to reprogram Overseas Contingency Operations funds to accelerate the buy of eight F-35 fighter aircraft. Later that week, on the 12th, we wrote a Weekly Wastebasket highlighting the ludicrous nature of this request. It illuminates our long-held belief that OCO has become a slush fund the Pentagon just can’t spend fast enough.
In the Wastebasket we said:
“OCO has become little more than an off-budget safety valve to keep the Pentagon from meeting the modest caps imposed by the Bi-partisan Budget Act. In this case it would enable the Pentagon to slip a few costly F-35s onto the OCO tab and reduce the perceived cost of the entire overblown program. Let’s face it, the Pentagon should be able to live within its nearly half a trillion dollar budget every year without resorting to spending the additional $85 billion ‘rainy day fund’ they have convinced Congress they need.”
Reprogramming requests often languish for months on the Hill. But this one got some immediate attention. On September 19th, Chairman Frelinghuysen of the House Appropriations Committee sent a letter denying the reprogramming. We could have written the Chairman’s statement ourselves:
“The Committee is concerned that OCO appropriations, which are provided by Congress specifically for ongoing combat operations and related efforts, are being utilized in this reprogramming to backfill budgetary shortfalls in acquisition program that have only tenuous links to the fight in Afghanistan and other current operations.” (Emphasis added.)
Later in the letter, Chairman Frelinghusen adds this request is, “contrary to policy excluding such use of OCO funding issue by the Office of Management and Budget, as well as previous decisions by the Committee on similar budget requests.”
Thank you Chairman Frelinghuysen for pointing out the fatal flaws in this request; we think that’s a perfect example of “common sense” thinking.