While the number of troops deployed overseas has decreased significantly, the cost per troop has increased markedly since the imposition of the 2011 Budget Control Act caps as the Obama administration and Congress have turned to Overseas Contingency Operations to fund increasingly unrelated programs. In his Fiscal Year 2016 request, President Obama requested a 6.8% increase above the 2015 level for base budget Pentagon spending, arguing for the third year that budget caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act are not sustainable for either defense or non-defense spending. President Obama proposed instead to raise revenues and adopt alternate savings. Congress has again ignored the administration’s proposed alternative, choosing instead this year to use Overseas Contingency Operations as a loophole that allows the Pentagon to increase funding for base budget activities without regard to the constraints of the caps. Without better controls on Overseas Contingency Operations spending, the Pentagon is likely to continue to avoid making choices about how to accommodate the modernization and readiness increases that it wants with the freeze in defense spending mandated by the Budget Control Act.
Matthew Leatherman, Stimson Non-Resident Fellow, Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense
Amy Belasco, Defense Budget Specialist, Congressional Research Service (Recently Retired)
Marcus Weisgerber, Global Business Reporter, DefenseOne
Laicie Heeley, Stimson Fellow, Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense