The Slow Convergence of Resources and Strategy

The Pentagon’s Fiscal 2015 budget request, set for unveiling this week, is the closest the Obama Administration has come yet to meeting mandated spending caps, but has some long-term problems that must be addressed, Todd Harrison, defense budget expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told reporters on Monday. Each federal budget the White House has issued since 2011’s Budget Control Act has steadily moved closer to the spending caps, said Harrison during a teleconference. While the Defense Department’s Fiscal 2015 proposal meets the $496 billion cap for the year, projected defense spending for Fiscal 2016 to Fiscal 2019 exceeds the caps by a total of $115 billion, he said. But Congress has not stuck to the caps either, said Harrison. A big question looms on the future of overseas contingency operations funding, as DOD has taken to moving base budget funding into OCO accounts, since they are a non-capped funding stream and these transfers have offset many cuts from the BCA. The practice appears to have continued despite the lower number of troops in Afghanistan. “This is a dangerous situation,” said Harrison, noting that these funds could disappear quickly when the United States leaves Afghanistan. (See also Harrison’s Fiscal 2015 budget backgrounder.)