Obama to Cut Funding for Afghanistan
June 5, 2012
Republicans in Congress are up in arms over the Obama administration's decision to include funding for the war in Afghanistan in the automatic cuts to defense spending that are set to begin in 2013.
Administration officials say the war funding has to account for part of the cuts under the law, but the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee says the money dedicated to Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) was never intended to fall under the budget axe.
"I am disappointed the president has made this choice, since there is no clear mandate for it in the law," House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement.
"Of course now, more than ever it is the troops on the front lines in Afghanistan who will bear the brunt of sequestration," McKeon said. "If our forces on the front line are truly going to have to do with less body armor, fewer medevacs, and less ammunition he owes it to them to offer a credible way out of the pending disaster."
Funding for the war has become the latest battleground in the increasingly acrimonious fight over the $500 billion across-the-board cut to defense that was set in motion by last summer's debt-ceiling deal, known as the Budget Control Act (BCA).
Officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said Friday the decision was not up to them because there was no exemption for preserving the war funding in the law.
"The question really is, was there anything in the statute that provides an exemption for the OCO funding, and we couldn't find anything," an OMB official said.
The Budget Control Act established punitive cuts to both defense and non-defense spending if a supercommittee tasked with finding more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction failed.
The sequestration cuts were designed to be harmful enough to force a deficit deal, but the supercommittee still failed to reach one, setting in motion the $500 billion in defense cuts over 10 years.
The issue has become a political football, with Republicans blaming Obama and Democrats for not trying to undo the cuts that both parties say would be terrible for the military.
McKeon has increasingly amped up his rhetoric this year, urging the issue to be addressed immediately, even though most people don't expect sequestration to be altered by Congress until after the November elections due to deep disagreements between the parties about how to reduce the deficit.
While Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said sequestration would be "devastating," he's also indicated that the Pentagon is not doing any planning for the cuts yet - a tactic that Republicans have lambasted.