WASHINGTON ― The Pentagon’s decision to shift $20 billion from wartime funding into the base budget now has some clarity.
During the Feb. 12 budget rollout of the fiscal 2019 budget request, there was a discrepancy of about $20 billion between what the printed materials said would be in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds and what Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist said were the correct figures.
That was the result of government printers not being able to keep up with last minute changes following the congressional budget deal worked out days before, Norquist explained, but there were few details available on what exactly would be shifting out of the OCO account and into the base budget.
Now, the Pentagon has provided more clarity on those funds. According to Defense Department spokesman Christopher Sherwood, the money breaks down into two categories ― $16.3 billion of operation and maintenance (O&M) funding and $1.1 billion for “non-DoD classified activities.” It is unclear exactly what that last category covers, but the Air Force budget request annually includes “non-blue” funding, money that passes through the service without it being able to use the funds.
It should be stressed these $20 billion are not new funds being added by the department; the intent was for the DoD to have this money under OCO initially in its FY19 request. OCO funds are exempt from the funding caps imposed by the Budget Control Act, part of why critics have called the funding mechanism a “slush fund” for the Pentagon.
That $16.3 billion for O&M breaks down like this:
- Army ― $5.0 billion, including $4.25 billion for Operating Forces, $0.5 billion for Administration and Service-wide Activities, and $0.25 billion for Mobilization.
- Navy ― $6.2 billion, including $2.8 billion for ship depot maintenance, $1.6 billion for Navy flight operations, $1.2 billion for Marine Corps flight operations, and $0.7 billion for ship operations.
- Air Force ― The Air Force realigned $4.8 billion for weapon system sustainment, which includes contractor logistics support and depot maintenance.
- U.S. Special Operation Command (USSOCOM) realigned $0.3 billion of their Operating Forces budget.
To keep up with news about the FY19 defense budget, click here.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.