A bipartisan team of lawmakers from the Senate Armed Services Committee are urging their colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to consider granting the Defense Department flexibility in spending billions of additional operations and maintenance funds, according to a recent letter.
"In an effort to ensure that the department can responsibly allocate and obligate Fiscal Year 2018 funds with only half of the fiscal year remaining, we urge Congress to provide the department with greater spending flexibility for the remainder of this fiscal year,” the March 5 letter states. "As such, we request that the Appropriations Committee consider exempting the Department of Defense from statutory limitations on obligating funds in FY-18."
The senators support options similar to those advocated by House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX).
Congress can either extend the one-year limitation on the Pentagon's O&M accounts or alter the so-called "80-20 rule," which prohibits DOD from spending more than 20 percent of its O&M money in the final two months of the fiscal year, according to the letter.
"Either of these two exceptions will ensure that service secretaries will have the flexibility to obligate funds in an efficient manner to restore readiness and execute the National Security and Defense Strategy," the letter states.
The letter was signed by Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Joni Ernst (R-IA), David Perdue (R-GA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
Congress has until March 23 to finalize an FY-18 omnibus spending bill poised to inject and additional $85 billion into the defense budget above statutorily mandated caps. Though lawmakers have agreed to final toplines for defense and non-defense spending, appropriators are still crafting a final bill.