Congress’s shenanigans on the 2017 defense budget show why we should stop paying for wars with a special emergency fund—the Overseas Contingency Operations. OCO has become a font of bad policy: an escape hatch from fiscal discipline and Pentagon prioritization, a shield that prevents the public from appreciating military costs and a facilitator of war made by executive fiat. If the US continues to fight in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, Congress should pay for it through the regular, or base, defense budget. Under current law, that means taxes or offsetting cuts, rather than debt, would cover war costs.Congress really needs to provide far more scrutiny on Pentagon spending. But it will take a much stronger peace movement to force that to happen.
... Analysts call OCO a “slush fund” because it lets Congress fund the Pentagon’s regular budget while pretending to pay for wars. As discussed in a recent Stimson Center report, nearly half of funds in the White House’s 2017 OCO request for the Pentagon belong in the base, in that they do not directly go to the war efforts.
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