For a couple of years now the White House and Congress have been using an “emergency” war budget for Afghanistan (also called Overseas Contingency Operations) as slush fund to circumvent spending caps. The year’s emergency request is almost $60 billion, even though Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work testified last week it would only cost $11 billion to carry out U.S. troops’ post-2014 missions in Afghanistan. That leaves about $42 billion in slush for the Pentagon to play with.
To put this in perspective the $60 billion emergency war spending request, if agreed to by Congress, would be the fifth largest defense budget in the world – more than both France and Great Britain spent on defense last year. With the war winding down in Afghanistan and most of our troops coming home, there is no longer a need for such an excessive war budget.
To make matters worse, this is happening while everything from road and bridge rehabilitation projects, to programs that help working families get back on their feet, to the National Institutes of Health (the NIH!!!) are taking massive cuts. Now really – what’s more important to you? Finding a cure for cancer or lining defense contractors’ pockets – because that is where most of this slush is going.
Fortunately, a few Members of Congress have caught on to the scam. Below, for your reading pleasure, are a few of our favorite slush fund quotes.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) “…some of us have been calling this OCO account [a] slush fund for many years, and I’m glad to hear it being repeated a little bit at this point.” House Committee on the Budget hearing, July 17, 2014
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC): “I don’t know why you need this money, it’s just a slush fund anyway.” HASC OCO hearing, July 16, 2014
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) “It seems like this has become just another slush fund where you can just transfer money between accounts.” HASC OCO hearing, July 16, 2014
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) “I’ve been trying for a couple years now to draw attention to — and stop — the habit in Congress of using the War Budget (also called Overseas Contingency Operations) as a slush fund to hide extra spending and pet projects.” Facebook, May 22, 2014
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) “This bill continues the overseas contingency operations slush fund, and it is a slush fund at a time when the administration still hasn’t decided on how much the Afghanistan war is going to cost or how many troops will be there.” House consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2015, May 21, 2014
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) “In addition, the OCO has become a slush fund for Congress and the Pentagon to stick in goodies for procurement and operations and maintenance that it couldn’t find room for in the Pentagon’s half-trillion dollar base budget.” House considering of HR 4138, March 12, 2014
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) “However, I am disappointed that the bill continues to fund Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) at a level above the Pentagon’s request. My colleague Representative Mick Mulvaney and I worked on a bipartisan basis to remove this excess funding during consideration of the defense budget in the House and in the final FY14 Defense Authorization bill. At a time when we are stretching every dollar to meet our nation’s needs, we should not create a slush fund for unrequested defense spending.” Van Hollen Statement on FY14 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, January 15, 2014