Not Optimal

The National Defense Authorization Act “should always be a bipartisan kind of bill,” but it has now turned partisan, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) said Thursday at an AFA space breakfast on Capitol Hill. “The defense sequester was supposed to be so bad that it would never happen, and that members of Congress would have to come to an agreement … it was a terrible idea,” said Bridenstine, a former Navy fighter pilot who serves in the Oklahoma Air National Guard. “We’ve got to fund the Department of Defense and we need to be able to fight and win wars,” he said. The overseas contingency operations fund “is not optimal,” Bridenstine said. “We don’t want OCO to go forward for ever and ever, … but, my goodness, what’s worse? Eliminating it? While we’ve got troops deployed?” OCO funding has been a point of contention in recent years, and the House’s version of the NDAA, which passed late Wednesday, takes $18 billion from the requested OCO funding and shifts it to base budget expenses; Defense Secretary Ash Carter has criticized the move. Bridenstine said “squabbles over whether it’s base budgeting or OCO budgeting” are important, but “we’ve got to get the bill passed, and we’ve got to fund things that need to be funded, and we can’t play politics with the national security of this country.”