House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told the Obama administration on Thursday that he was tired of hearing Pentagon news through the media before it's brought to his committee.
“Once again I have learned important details of a major decision by the Department of Defense by reading it in the press instead of hearing it from Secretary [Chuck] Hagel," McKeon said in a statement after information on the 2015 wartime funding request was published.
The White House plans to request $58.5 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, according to Defense News.
The funding has become highly controversial. Fiscal conservative groups and many lawmakers argue it should be lower than the current $85 billion, but the military services in Afghanistan and responsible for counterterrorism operations support the number.
The White House's requested amount was due to Congress in March, along with the rest of its defense budget request, but had been delayed until after the president decided how many troops to leave in Afghanistan after the combat mission ended in December.
But even that decision came weeks ago.
“The administration delayed this proposal for over four months and now appears to be in a rush to deliver it to the Hill with little detail on how the Department would spend the money," McKeon said.
“Congress is not a rubber stamp. The Armed Services Committee will examine the proposal closely, once it is actually transmitted and details are provided," he said.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also complained about learning of the figure in the news media and said Congress should determine how the money is spent.
“The number isn’t important. It’s what [Obama’s] going to use it for, and what I think we should do is authorize where it should go and how it should be disposed of,” Inhofe told reporters.
Hagel last week said 2015's budget would be "substantially smaller" than 2014's $85 billion.
Although details are scant, the White House has said $5 billion would go to a counterterrorism fund for U.S. partners, $1 billion would go toward bolstering security in Europe, and $20 billion would reportedly go toward the post-2014 training and advising mission in Afghanistan.
McKeon said he looked forward to receiving details of the request, which would be considered by his committee.
"First, how does OCO reset the equipment returning from hard combat in Afghanistan? Is this request more realistic than the artificially low requests of the past that ultimately harmed readiness?" he asked.
"And how does the President’s new $5 billion counterterrorism fund differ from programs we are already resourcing? I look forward to the Department’s testimony before the Committee in the near future, where we will begin to explore these important issues.”