The Pentagon’s $496 billion budget request released Tuesday contains a laundry list of weapons systems and troops’ benefits the military wants for next year. What the massive request does not include, however, are any details about how it plans to spend money on its most important function: fighting wars.
Instead, the Defense Department is tossing out $79 billion as a “placeholder” request to Congress for spending on wars, known as the “overseas contingency operations” account.
That is the exact amount the military asked for last year. But, given that the Obama administration is in the process of winding down the war in Afghanistan, officials are insisting their placeholder should not be taken seriously. “It’s not a real number,” Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox said last week.
So why can’t the Pentagon tell Congress how much it needs to fight the nation’s wars?
For one, the pace and future of the Afghan drawdown remains in flux.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is defying expectations by refusing to sign the U.S.-Afghanistan security pact, which could allow the United States to keep 10,000 troops stationed in the Central Asian country. But if Karzai refuses to sign the agreement, and if his soon-to-be-elected successor refuses as well, the White House has said it is making plans for a complete pullout of U.S. forces.
The eventual number of troops stationed there obviously will greatly affect how much military operations will cost in 2015, and so Congress may get a much clearer picture if the next Afghan president signs the security pact following the upcoming elections.
And Congress may not, in fact, be in any hurry to find a rigid ceiling for the war-spending account. The fund is not subject to Congress’s strict budget caps, and in the 2014 budget, the Pentagon and Congress added some $30 billion for items not directly related to war — including depot maintenance for major weapons systems, and pay and benefits for service members who may or may not be deployed.
What We're Following See More »
Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.
“My view is, first you get them to laugh, then you get them to listen," says Michelle Obama in a new profile in Variety. "So I’m always game for a good joke, and I’m not so formal in this role. There’s very little that we can’t do that people wouldn’t appreciate.” According to writer Ted Johnson, Mrs. Obama has leveraged the power of pop culture far beyond her predecessors. "Where are the people?" she asks. "Well, they’re not reading the op-ed pieces in the major newspapers. They’re not watching Sunday morning news talk shows. They’re doing what most people are doing: They are watching TV.”
The FBI and other US security agencies are currently investigating a series of computer breaches found within The New York Times and other news organizations. It is expected that the hacks were carried out by individuals working for Russian intelligence. It is believed that these cyber attacks are part of a "broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations, the officials said."
In a 3-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Columbia University graduate students, granting them the legal right to unionize. The petition was brought by a number of teaching assistants enrolled in graduate school. This decision could pave the way for thousands of new union members, depending on if students at other schools nationwide wish to join unions. A number of universities spoke out in opposition to this possibility, saying injecting collective bargaining into graduate school could create a host of difficulties.
Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.