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 »
"President Trump issued a series of executive orders Friday that could gut federal employee unions’ ability to negotiate with agency leaders and represent workers, as well as reduce the time it takes for an agency to fire people for poor performance or misconduct. Billed as the first step toward broad civil service reform, senior administration officials announced in a call with reporters on Friday afternoon three executive orders aimed at making it easier to fire poor performers and ordering harsher treatment of union representatives."
Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting. In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg."