By MARCUS WEISGERBER
WASHINGTON — The White House will soon send the Pentagon’s 2015 war spending request to the US Congress, with sources saying the budget plan will likely head to Capitol Hill by the end of the week.
Asked Tuesday when the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget plan would be revealed, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said: “very soon.” He deferred timing questions to the White House Office of Management and Budget.
An OMB spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment, but sources say the bill will be sent to lawmakers imminently.
As for the size of the spending request, it will be less than the $85 billion Congress approved for Afghanistan operations in 2014.
“It will be significantly below the $79 billion placeholder that was in the budget we submitted in March,” Hale said in an interview.
Experts have pegged the spending bill totaling between $50 billion and $70 billion.
For years DoD worked to shift money from its war spending accounts to the base budget as programs became institutionalized after more than decade at war. However, as defense spending has become more constrained in recent years due to federal budget caps, both DoD and Congress have shifted money the other way from the OCO to base.
While the OCO budget has historically included money primarily for war-related costs, the 2015 spending plan will include two new initiatives, in addition to funding for military operations in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama announced the 2015 OCO request would include $5 billion for a counterterrorism fund and up to $1 billion to boost American military presence in Europe.
“I suspect the biggest news will be the two funds even though they won’t be dominant in terms of total dollars,” Hale said. “They’re new and that always attracts interest.”
DoD has not received guidance about whether it should plan for these two new OCO coffers to continue in the 2016 budget, which the Pentagon is already developing.
The OCO budget will include money for fixing equipment, the Afghan National Security Forces and the Joint IED Defeat Organization, Hale said.