Press Release

REPORT: It’s Time to Wind Down the War Budget

Washington, D.C. — One major effect of the global war on terror and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was a sea change in the way U.S. wars are funded. The Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, budget, that paid for these wars existed outside of the Department of Defense’s base budget. However, even though those wars have either ended or drawn down to a significantly smaller and less expensive level, the OCO budget is still outsized and poses budgetary and strategic risks.

In a new report, the Center for American Progress argues that the Overseas Contingency Operations budget should be wound down. Funding for any new conflicts should be sought through emergency appropriations, while long-term costs should be paid for out of the base DOD budget.

“While the OCO budget may have served its purpose while the United States was fighting two wars overseas and an ongoing war on terror, it also decimated any pretense of fiscal discipline and effectively hid the true cost of prolonged military engagement,” said Larry Korb, CAP Senior Fellow and co-author of the report. “The abundance of war funding gave the Pentagon and Congress the illusion that the defense budget would remain effectively unlimited and has allowed the DOD to circumvent important fiscal caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. As the military turns its attention to the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham and the important war powers questions this conflict raises, now is the time for this war slush fund wind down in order to bring back true fiscal discipline and to prevent further erosion of the important check Congress puts on presidential war powers.”

The report specifically calls for:

  • Keeping OCO funds tied to the specific costs of the war in Afghanistan
  • Ending the use of OCO as a “safety valve” to evade base defense budget caps
  • Preventing OCO from becoming a permanent emergency war fund
  • Exercising renewed oversight and authorization of military action by Congress and the public
  • Having the tough conversations about defense resources and trade-offs within a defense budget the nation can afford

Click here to read the report.

For more information on this topic, contact Tom Caiazza at 202.481.7141 or [email protected].