Politicians pride themselves on finding clever solutions to tough problems.
But the latest proposal in the US Congress to raise Pentagon spending strains credibility to the breaking point.
The Obama administration wants $534 billion for DoD’s base budget in 2016 — $36 billion more than spending caps allow, plus another $51 billion for the overseas contingency operations account.
Pressured by deficit hawks, Republicans leaders won’t break caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act on Pentagon and other government departments. Democrats maintain that DoD shouldn’t be exempted from caps; if they’re lifted, they ought to be lifted across government.
Now, Republican defense hawks are threatening to derail spending bills unless they get more Pentagon funding.
The proposed solution is to double the administration’s OCO request to nearly $100 billion in 2016.
But even veteran lawmakers don’t know how the measure would work or be approved (a vote is planned for this week), as DoD hints it doesn’t need that much more money.
The prospect that this account, long criticized as a slush fund, will grow so dramatically to skirt budget caps is ridiculous.
Its purpose is to cover wartime operations costs. While it has been used to boost defense spending, it’s not the right way to do business.
Given that most lawmakers oppose the defense and domestic caps, the right answer is for congressional leaders to strike a deal that raises defense and domestic spending caps by equal amounts, allowing defense authorizers and appropriators to thoughtfully craft their 2016 spending bills.