The Pentagon’s Budget Arrives With a $79 Billion Mystery

The Defense Department still doesn’t know how much to request from Congress for spending on wars.

Image has been reviewed by U.S. Military prior to transmission.) In this handout provided by the U.S. Air Force, a HH-60G Pave Hawk hovers over pararescuemen and Brig. Gen. Jack L. Briggs, the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, during a training mission at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 24, 2010. The training mission provided a glimpse of what the 33rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron brings to the fight and the capabilities it provides to combat commanders.
National Journal
March 4, 2014, 8:18 a.m.

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 »
MANAFORT STEERED HIM WORK IN UKRAINE
Prosecutors Weighing Whether to Charge Greg Craig
13 hours ago
THE LATEST

A long-running federal investigation into former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig "is reaching a critical stage, presenting the Justice Department with a decision about whether to charge a prominent Democrat as part of a more aggressive crackdown on illegal foreign lobbying." Federal prosecutors in New York have transferred the case to Washington. ... The investigation centers on whether Mr. Craig should have disclosed work he did in 2012 — while he was a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom — on behalf of the Russia-aligned government of Viktor F. Yanukovych, then the president of Ukraine. The work was steered to Mr. Craig by Paul Manafort."

Source:
AUTHORIZED TO UNLOCK PHONES
Feds Raided Broidy's Offices Last Year
20 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Federal authorities raided the office of Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy last summer, seeking records related to his dealings with foreign officials and Trump administration associates, according to a sealed search warrant obtained by ProPublica. Agents were authorized to use the megadonor’s hands and face to unlock any phones that required fingerprint or facial scans."

Source:
REPUBLICANS SAID VOTE WAS A WASTE OF TIME
House Approves Resolution to Release Mueller Report, 420-0
4 days ago
THE DETAILS

"The House on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on the Justice Department to make special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings and full report public and available to Congress. The 420-0 vote came after a fiery debate on the House floor, during which some Democratic lawmakers were admonished for their criticisms of President Donald Trump. Republicans said the resolution was unnecessary and a waste of time, but ultimately joined Democrats to approve it. Four Republicans — Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky — voted 'present.'"

Source:
SAME JUDGE THAT JUST SENTENCED MANAFORT
Stone Trial Set for Nov. 5
4 days ago
WHY WE CARE
IS MUELLER'S TOP PROSECUTOR
Andrew Weissmann Stepping Down
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"One of the most prominent members of special counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russia's attack on the 2016 presidential election will soon leave the office and the Justice Department, two sources close to the matter tell NPR. Andrew Weissmann, the architect of the case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, will study and teach at New York University and work on a variety of public service projects, including his longstanding interest in preventing wrongful convictions by shoring up forensic science standards used in courts, the sources added. The departure is the strongest sign yet that Mueller and his team have all but concluded their work."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login