Carter: OCO supplemental request coming in November

By Tony Bertuca / September 27, 2016 at 10:35 AM

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday that the Obama administration plans to send Congress a supplemental budget request after the Nov. 8 elections to finance troop retentions in Afghanistan and the Pentagon's accelerated campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Carter, who spoke to reporters after a speech at Minot Air Force Base, ND, said the Pentagon is still trying to "refine" the size of its Overseas Contingency Operations supplemental request.

"We have a range, we're going to refine it, and they'll get a refined number when they return in November, hopefully to pass a budget for the federal government," Carter said in a transcript released by the Defense Department.

Carter said the supplemental OCO request, which some congressional sources peg to be anywhere from $3 billion to $6 billion, was a reflection of DOD's efforts to defeat ISIL and retain its commitment to Afghanistan.

"It actually reflects a good thing, which is that we are seizing upon [an] opportunity to destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and therefore to add some resources to hasten that," he said. "And we're seeing opportunities to strengthen what we've long been embarked on in Afghanistan with Operation Resolute Support there."

Meanwhile, the Senate this week -- in lieu of being able to pass any fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills -- is negotiating the terms of a continuing resolution that would avert a government shutdown until Dec. 9. Congress would then have to pass some sort of spending legislation when it returns, either in the form of an omnibus or several "mini-buses," as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has suggested.

Republican lawmakers have demanded for months that Obama send Congress a supplemental OCO request to finance his plans to retain 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, rather than the 5,500 that were budgeted for FY-17. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) has accused the administration of "extortion" by leveraging needed defense funding to increase non-defense spending. 

The White House Office of Management and Budget, however, has said the Obama administration does not plan to request an OCO supplemental without also seeking additional non-defense spending, leading Todd Harrison, a budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to believe that the additional OCO funding "will have to be part of whatever budget deal they try to strike after the election."