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International

Trump looks to tap overseas contingency fund to boost defence spending

Agency News

Washington, Feb 26 : US President Donald Trump’s administration will attempt to push defence spending through an uncapped fund traditionally dedicated to contingent overseas military operations, Acting White House Budget Director Russ Vought said in an article.

Politico reported over the weekend that The White House is expected to push through more than 20 percent of its $750 billion request in annual defence spending through the special war operations fund.

"Additional needed defense resources will be designated as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds, which are not subject to the spending caps," Vought wrote in an op-ed for Real Clear Politics on Monday. "The president’s 2020 budget will meet the target of a 5 percent reduction to non-defense discretionary spending, by means of one of the largest spending reductions in history."

In the past two years, Congress has raised spending limits by $300 billion to accommodate increases in both military budgets and social programs, Vought said. "In each of these deals, Democrats in Congress held defence spending increases hostage for increases in domestic spending," Vought added. "We should expect more of the same from Democrats this year."

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who is still serving as current director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) alongside Vought, once strongly opposed the measure and as a lawmaker even sponsored a bill to limit the use of the OCO fund as a means of reducing deficit spending. US House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth in a statement said that Trump’s attempt to use the OCO "gimmick" makes a mockery of the federal budget process and obscures the true cost of military operations. Democrats, Yarmuth said, will reject the dishonest budget scheme and Trump’s bid to deceive US voters.

The OCO portion of the US defence budget typically funds open-ended military commitments in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, and is not subject to budget caps imposed in the 2011 Budget Control Act.

About 70 percent of the US budget consists of automatic spending for Social Security, Medicare and interest on the national debt - items over which Congress has little immediate control. The remaining 30 percent consists of programs that require annual appropriations from Congress, such as military budgets, social welfare spending. SPUTNIK