Defense bill amendment to restrict wartime funding usage

The Pentagon could have a more difficult time using wartime funding to pay for training and other costs that are not directly related to war, due to a 2015 House defense bill amendment that passed Wednesday evening. 

The amendment, sponsored by Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), would limit requests from the Pentagon to use wartime funding, known as Overseas Contingency Operations, to pay for costs it would normally pay for from its base budget.

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It would codify criteria developed by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget in 2010 to “clarify when military spending should be designated as contingency operations and properly be part of the Overseas Contingency Operation budget,” according to the amendment’s language. 

The Pentagon has not yet given a requested amount for 2015, since the post-Afghan War presence in Afghanistan has not been announced, but the House’s 2015 National Defense Authorization Act would authorize $79.4 billion. 

While the base defense budget is subject to caps established under the 2011 Budget Control Act, OCO is not, and has increasingly become a source of funding for costs that were once paid for in the base budget. 

“The Mulvaney-Murphy amendment is a good step toward ending the abuse of a common gimmick,” said a nonprofit group Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget in a statement Wednesday before the vote. 

“It gives Congress and OMB stronger oversight over the OCO accounts by listing strict criteria for the types of spending that qualifies,” it said. 

The defense bill is expected to be voted on Thursday.