President Obama has asked Congress for $65.8 billion for the war on terrorism, including $500 million to pay for U.S. military training and equipment for opposition fighters in Syria's civil war, The Washington Post reports
If Congress approves the budget for the Pentagon's Overseas Contingency Operations budget (OCO) — which funds the war in Afghanistan and other global counterterrorism efforts — "it would mark the first direct U.S. military participation in the Syrian conflict," according to the Post.
The administration has said it is preparing to assist "vetted" opposition forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces as well as the Muslim terror group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS has already overtaken parts of Iraq, the Post added.
The funding request, which does not include money for operations in Iraq, hands Congress "the political hot potato" of deciding if the U.S. should arm and train the rebels, according to Politico
The Hill reports
that Congressional Republicans have indicated they do not take issue with the requested amount – it is less than the $79.4 billion the president requested in March — but say they will be outspoken about how the money is spent.
Members of Congress criticized the president's lack of transparency in drafting the budget, according to Politico. News of the figure leaked in press reports late Wednesday yet members of the Senate still had not received any information Thursday morning,
"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," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon said in a statement.
"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."
Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Republican, wants funding for Iraq included in the budget request.
"It's not a matter of money. It's a matter of policy," McCain said. "Obviously, I'm going to want to know what it's used for. I also want to know what the strategy is — so far there's been no strategy."
The current funding for the U.S. military command in the Middle East is currently covered in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) budget, according to The Hill
Details on how the OCO money would be spent were scant, according to The Hill, which said the administration provided nebulous explanations such as "$50 million for urgent joint warfare requirements."
A White House fact sheet stated that the 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."
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