Djibouti (HAN) 31 October 2020. Opinion and Public diplomacy observations: The U.S. Army’s fiscal 2021 wish list, also known as an unfunded requirements list, sent to Congress amounts to nearly $5 billion more than the service placed on its list last fiscal year, and it would give its multi-domain units in Europe and the Indo-Pacific region a boost while providing more padding for its wartime funding account. The good news is for the region and Somalia operations, Central Command troop levels and ongoing contingency operations could require up to $3.9 billion, that will “primarily” support “Operation Freedom Sentinel and the Army Counter-Terrorism Operations around the globe — theater operations such as mobilization, transportation, force protection, base operations, combat and advisory operations, intel and electronic warfare ground collection, aerial ISR, and equipment reset.”
Geeska Afrika Online observed Lesson could be learn for Somalia & Al-Shabaab’s future dialogue through Qatar or Saudi Arabian Intelligence agencies or Turkey. The Trump presidency started to negotiate with the Taliban terrorist after two decades at war in Afghanistan and Pakistan area. But, as TRT World writes, “While the US and its archenemy the Taliban announced they had arrived at some degree of compromise on February 29, 2020 no one except the chief US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan American diplomat, and top Taliban leaders, knows about the ‘secret’ agenda agreed with the Taliban agreement.”
Nevertheless, “This budget reduction comes in a pivotal budget year for the Army as we begin to fully leverage the early successes of our modernization efforts,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville wrote in an undated letter to congressional leaders and defense committees, obtained by Defense News.
The Army has referred to this moment in time as an “inflection point” where it needs to begin to divest its current capability to fund ambitious modernization efforts and align with the National Defense Strategy and its new guiding operational doctrine — Multi-Domain Operations.
“The Army’s FY21 budget request is anchored to the priorities set forth in the [National Defense Strategy], however this request represents a downturn in real purchasing power (-1%) from FY20,” McConville wrote. “While we have managed to sustain readiness gains the Army has achieved in FY18-20 and further invest in our six modernization priorities, our progress is at risk in future years if we don’t have real growth of 3-5% in our budgets going forward.”
Meanwhile, According to Sean Kennedy’s report “End the Pentagon’s OCO slush fund.”
When the global war on terror began less than a month after Sept. 11, 2001, Congress created the overseas contingency operations account as a one-time supplemental appropriation to the budget for the Department of Defense. But like many other emergency or temporary federal expenditures, the OCO was greatly expanded and used for unrelated purposes.
As the United States marked 19 years of conflict in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2020, the DoD is still receiving a significant portion of its funding through the OCO. It is long past time to unwind this account, which has transitioned into a slush fund designed to inflate spending at the DoD far above the baseline budget and for purposes unrelated to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and military operations in other countries, like Syria.
The fiscal abuse became particularly acute following the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011, when members of Congress started to use the OCO to bypass the spending restraints applied to the Pentagon.
The DoD has received approximately $2 trillion from the OCO since 2001. Were it considered to be a federal agency, the $70.7 billion provided for the OCO in fiscal 2020 would make it the fourth largest, dwarfing spending at all other agencies except the DoD as well as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
OCO spending has long outpaced the military’s presence in combat zones. In FY08, the U.S. was actively fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and deployed an average of 187,000 troops in these countries. OCO spending topped $187 million in that year, equating to $1,000 per service member.
In 2020, the U.S. has approximately 14,300 troops stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, meaning the $70.7 billion for the OCO in FY20 equates to $4.9 million in funding per service member, nearly 5,000 times the amount in FY08. With President Donald Trump planning to further reduce the military’s footprint in Afghanistan, the trend of outsized OCO spending relative to troops abroad is likely to continue in FY21.
The level of OCO spending has remained higher than needed for its underlying purposes for many years because much its spending belongs in the Pentagon’s base budget. In FY15, approximately 50 percent of OCO funding was for non emergency items. An October 2018 Congressional Budget Office report found that, on average, the OCO provided $50 billion toward enduring activities (like regular maintenance activities supporting foreign operations that will continue regardless of force) between 2006 and 2018. This trend is set to continue into the future. An August 2019 CBO report noted that approximately 85 percent of funding for the OCO in FY20 and FY21 “is designated for base-budget and ‘enduring’ activities.”
Compared to historical emergency spending, the use of the OCO for that purpose is unprecedented. Emergency funding outside of the base budget made up around 2 percent of DoD spending between 1970 and 2000. Between 2001 and 2018, the OCO has constituted on average of approximately 20 percent of the Pentagon’s annual budget.
Beyond the problems associated with using a loophole to fund the DoD, as a supplemental appropriation the OCO does not allow the Pentagon to factor its funding into the normal budgetary process, which involves planning for multiple years. For this reason, top DoD officials have expressed their disappointment in the system and have argued for the incorporation of OCO funding back into the DoD baseline budget.
Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter stated in a March 18, 2015, House Armed Services Committee hearing that the OCO “doesn’t work because to have the defense we need and the strategy that we have laid out, we need the budget that we have laid out not just in one year, but in the years to come … and so, budgeting one year at a time, and this proposal is a one-year-at-a-time thing, doesn’t work for national defense. It’s not going to permit us to carry out the strategy as we’ve planned.”
After 19 years of conflict in Afghanistan, the notion that funding for war fighting cannot be planned for in the regular budget is laughable. Congress should restore order and rationality in the Pentagon’s budget by eliminating the OCO.
Opinion Reported by: Sean Kennedy is the director of research at Citizens Against Government Waste.
Photo: Donald Trump is seen with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, discussing arms sales to the kingdom for regional security and stability- Read seas & Western Indian maritime security protection peace shield.