Report: OCO Uncertainty is Dangerous

Relying on overseas contingency operations funds creates uncertainty that could harm US national security, and President Obama and the next President should work on a plan to gradually eliminate OCO funding starting next year, according to a new report from the Stimson Center. The reliance on OCO undermines budget controls, creates insecurity in the defense workforce, and makes long-term defense planning impossible, according to the report. OCO—as it is known today—?came into being in 2009, then was altered by the 2011 Budget Control Act. At the same time, the Pentagon’s base budget was growing and US forces were leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, but OCO “remained relatively high,” Laicie Heeley and Anna Wheeler wrote, in part because other programs—including the European Reassurance Initiative—have been funded under OCO. Moving OCO expenses to the base budget can and should happen, and a “sustainable path forward” would include increased budget caps, targeted cuts, and increased revenue, they wrote. The end of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement in Fiscal 2018 “will provide an opportunity for action,” and Obama and the next President should take advantage of that opportunity, the report concludes.