White House seeking $58.6B in war funding

The White House announced Thursday it would seek $58.6 billion in funding for the Afghanistan War from Congress for the next year.

The requested amount for the fiscal year beginning in October is less than the $85 billion provided for this year, and is also down from the $79.4 billion the White House included in the president’s budget in March.

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It comes after President Obama announced he would reduce the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, with all troops scheduled to leave the country at the end of 2016.

Republicans in Congress indicated they would have little issue with the amount, but promised there would be a debate over how the funds are to be used.

The funding, known as Overseas Contingency Operations, was created to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan war costs, but in recent years has been used to fund other operations as well as things that were previously funded from the services' base budgets.

A White House fact sheet indicated that practice would continue, noting that besides the post-2014 mission in Afghanistan and related activities, the $58.6 would pay for “other critical missions, including counterterrorism, in the region.”

“Today’s request is consistent with the plan the president laid out at West Point, which made the case for bringing the U.S. war in Afghanistan to a responsible end, while ensuring our armed forces have the flexibility and resources required to respond to emerging needs as terrorist threats around the world continue to evolve,” a White House fact sheet said.

The administration provided some detail on what programs the money would be spent on, although little information was given on each program. For example, $50 million would be provided for "urgent joint warfighting requirements."

The administration would also use the fund to pay for sending home thousands of pieces of military equipment from Afghanistan, to repair that equipment and to replenish ammunition stocks. 

The administration warned that even with troops on the way out of Afghanistan, costs “will not decline precipitously.”

“For example, DOD will still incur significant costs to transport personnel, supplies, and equipment back to their home stations,” the fact sheet said.

Fiscal conservative group Pentagon Budget Campaign criticized the request as higher than necessary. 

“The OCO number is lower than the placeholder estimate, a victory for advocates of reducing wasteful spending at the Pentagon,” it said. “However, analysts expressed concern as to why the request is well above what is needed for the limited number of troops that will remain in Afghanistan.”