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Pentagon Asks Congress for More Time to Spend Budget Increases

Image: Pentagon Asks Congress for More Time to Spend Budget Increases
(CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

By    |   Monday, 19 February 2018 08:58 AM

The Pentagon is asking Congress to relax a Sept. 30 deadline for using its annual operations and maintenance (O&M) funds, so it can more efficiently make use of the money to increase troop training and equipment maintenance, the Washington Examiner reported on Monday.

The request comes after Congress reached a two-year budget deal earlier this month that would boost defense spending this fiscal year and next. Legislators expect to finally pass appropriations legislation by March 23 to set a funding level for the Pentagon, with only about half the fiscal year remaining.

The wrangling in Congress that has delayed the funding means the Pentagon is currently on its fifth continuing resolution since the fiscal year began last October, which has kept spending rates at last year's levels.

Once the full spending increase is approved, the military would have to quickly spend billions of dollars in new funding by the end of September, the last day of the fiscal year, or else the money would not be allowed to be spent after that date by current rules.

O&M funds accounts for about 40 percent of the total Pentagon budget. The 2017 budget for O&M was $253 billion, and the Trump administration has asked for an additional $19.6 billion, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Army Secretary Mark Esper said he has been meeting with members of Congress about the issue, according to the Examiner.

"Allow me to spend O&M money for more than one fiscal year. Allow me to spend it for two fiscal years, that way I can smooth that curve out," Esper said. "I can make better use of the taxpayers’ dollars, I can ensure more soldiers are trained and well-trained, and I think overall we can deliver a much better product."

Assistant Marine Corps commandant Gen. Glenn Walters stressed to the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that "We have a year's worth of money adds in '18 and five months to spend it. It might help if the appropriators can give us some flexibility so we can spend '18 money in '19 and feather in the plan and give us some authorities to ... move money around where we're executing."

House Appropriations defense subcommittee member Tom Cole acknowledged that new flexibility for spending the money will be part of the deliberations on the bill.

Other congressmen have been pressing for the Defense Department to be audited to cut out waste before funds are increased, with Sen. Rand Paul making that argument when he forced a short-lived government shutdown earlier this month with a lengthy floor speech decrying the budget deficit, The Hill reported.

"Before we give them more money, make them account for the money they're already spending," he said.

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The Pentagon is asking Congress to relax a Sept. 30 deadline for using its annual operations and maintenance (O&M) funds, so it can more efficiently make use of the money to increase troop training and equipment maintenance.
pentagon, congress, budget
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2018-58-19
Monday, 19 February 2018 08:58 AM
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