HASC Pushes Back on OCO Request

House lawmakers appeared skeptical of the Obama Administration’s Fiscal 2015 overseas contingency operations request during a testy hearing with senior Defense Department officials Wednesday. The $58.6 billion request funds a range of activities from supporting operations in Afghanistan to a new global counter terrorism initiative and expanded assistance for European allies. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said the majority of the funds, some $53.7 billion, will support the drawdown in Afghanistan to a force level of around 9,800 troops by year’s end, as well as activity for the Afghan security forces, logistics, some reset costs, and other expenses. He pushed back on charges that OCO expenses are growing not shrinking with the drawdown, saying the argument was “erroneous.” He noted that budgeting rules also allow OCO funds to support costs outside of Afghanistan, such as intelligence and security cooperation expenses. Chair Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) conceded an enduring need for OCO but charged the request was late in arriving to Congress and has “little detail” on other new funding requests and authorities. Work and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, who stressed that around $9 billion is slated for reset costs, cautioned that if these funds go away and sequester returns, reset will become enormously difficult. (See hearing statements here).