In a move that is heartily approved and applauded by ComNavOps, the Biden administration is proposing to eliminate the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding as a separate account from the base military budget.
The OCO was initially set up to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan from sources outside the military’s base budget. It had very little oversight and was quickly abused by the military which turned it into a slush fund for all sorts of non-combat items. OCO funds were also not subject to sequestration which, again, prompted the military to use it as a slush fund.
As an example of the magnitude of the OCO, the OCO budget in 2015 was $64B(1) and $77B in 2019(3). The FY2020 budget request contained a staggering $174B in OCO and emergency budget requests.(4)
The degree of abuse of the OCO fund is extensive, as noted below.
“You would expect to see war funding decrease as the U.S. withdraws troops from operations. But the sticking point is that the OCO budget has been used to skirt the Budget Control Act caps,” said Seamus Daniels, a program manager for defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The fund was supposed to have been purely for combat operations but now consists of 70% non-combat items. That’s abuse! It is well past time for this ill-conceived budget manipulation to end.
Those who believe that some type of combat operations funding mechanism was needed would do well to recall that ONLY Congress can declare war. Combat operations that last decades should have long ago been either halted or war should have been declared by Congress and funded as such. The OCO was a gross abuse of the military budgeting process and a way for the military to fund programs outside the oversight of Congress and the regulation of the sequestration legislation.
If Congress follows through on this effort to remove OCO funding, ComNavOps gives a major salute and kudos to the Biden administration.
(3)Congressional Research Service, “Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status”, Sep-2019,