Late last year, Congress authorized $514 billion in baseline defense spending for fiscal year 2016. However, on top of the baseline budget, another $59 billion was authorized for the war budget, also known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. These budgets combined give the Pentagon a total of $573 billion to spend this fiscal year.
However, the Pentagon is the only government agency that benefits from having two separate budgets. While the OCO budget is theoretically to be used for wartime needs only, Gordon Adams, emeritus professor of international politics at American University, tells Reason TV that this second budget is ruining fiscal responsibility at the Pentagon.
"Pentagon civil servants and admirals and generals are no more stupid than anybody else. They figured out over time that this was great," says Adams, "if [they] could not get some of the stuff they wanted in the regular budget, well [they] put it in the extra budget." For instance, OCO spent about $300 million dollars for new propellers for nuclear submarines—a cost that probably did not help the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Studies by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and the Project on Government Oversight indicates that approximately $30 billion was spent on non-war related items from the OCO budget in 2014.
"[OCO] completely destroys budget discipline," says Gordon, "saying 'there's always more money' simply conveys the message to the department 'you don't have to make choices, you can always find a way to raise money for the things you want to do."
Gordon sat down with Reason TV's Nick Gillespie to discuss how OCO has led to fiscal irresponsibility at the Pentagon and a more militarized view of foreign policy.
About 10 minutes.