The White House on Tuesday threated to veto the House’s $576 billion defense spending billion primarily over the measure’s use of $15.7 billion from DOD’s war fund for base budget requirements including readiness, increased end strength and modernization.
The Office of Management and Budget’s Statement of Administration Policy criticizes the maneuver for shortchanging funding for overseas operations as well as for undermining last October’s two-year budget deal that lifted the spending cap for defense and non-defense programs by equal amounts.
The fiscal 2017 spending bill, H.R 5293, would provide $517.1 billion for the base budget and $58.6 billion for the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account. But it allocates $15.7 billion from the uncapped OCO account for base requirements the administration did not request, causing it to run out by the end of April.
“Shortchanging wartime operations by $16 billion would deplete essential funding for ongoing operations by the middle of the year, introducing a dangerous level of uncertainty for our men and women in uniform carrying out missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere,” OMB said.
By using some of the reallocated funds to support higher end strength levels than requested, the funding maneuver would undermine the Pentagon’s effort to restore readiness, according to the statement.
“This would also invite a significant, unacceptable risk of creating a future hollow force, in which force structure exists, but the resources to make it ready do not follow,” OMB said.
The statement also criticized the measure for not supporting many of the Pentagon’s reforms that shed unneeded force structure, reduce wasteful overhead, balance growth in military compensation and modernize military health care. One of those reforms is a round of base closures in 2019, which the bill prohibits by not including $3.5 million the administration requested to prepare for a new BRAC.
“By forcing the department to spread its resources more thinly, excess infrastructure is one of the principal drains on the department’s readiness, which the committee recognizes as a major concern,” OMB stated.
The House began debate on the spending measure late Tuesday.