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Trump’s Emergency Funding Request Tortures the Definition of “Emergency”

Words: Ryan Alexander
Pictures: Craig Okraska

Late in the day on November 6, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) transmitted the President’s “FY 2018 Budget Request for Emergency Requirements” to Congress. The total amount of the request is $5.9 billion. Of that total, $4.7 billion is designated as an “emergency requirement,” and $1.2 billion is designated as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

Why are these designations important? Because in the world of budget arcana, which is the world we inhabit at Taxpayers for Common Sense, calling something emergency or OCO spending means it doesn’t count against those pesky budget caps put in place in 2011 by the Budget Control Act (BCA). The BCA cap for defense spending for fiscal year 2018 is $549 billion. And the BCA is still the law of the land.

So cheers (we guess) to OMB for acknowledging that the BCA still exists and the cap still applies to DoD spending. But jeers (sorry Director Mulvaney) for just handwaving that away by classifying this request as exempt from the caps.

Particularly egregious, to us, is a relatively small provision tucked in the request for Ft. Greely in Alaska. The Administration requests $200 million for “the construction of Missile Field No. 4 at Ft. Greely, Alaska to provide the ballistic missile defense system with increased ground-based interceptor capabilities to enhance homeland defense.”

First, the request admits that this construction project is “not otherwise authorized by law.” That means it has not been subjected to the normal vetting process by the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees of Congress.

Second, the request correctly notes that military construction funds are “five-year money.” This means the funds don’t expire until five years after the Congress appropriates them. (We told you this was going to be rich in budget arcana!) So, to be clear, the Missile Defense Agency will have until the end of September 2022 to address this rampant emergency.

Third, this is November and the construction project is for Alaska. We’re not sure when the construction season is in Alaska, but we’re pretty sure it doesn’t include the winter months. This is sounding less and less like something that should be paid for with “emergency” funding, isn’t it?

At Taxpayers we’ve said it before: military construction, with its lengthy planning and review process, is the antithesis of an emergency. And when he was a Member of Congress, Director Mulvaney agreed with us on that. In fact, he offered amendments to strip overseas military construction projects from the OCO portion of a previous Pentagon spending bill.

And we’ll keep saying it: five-year military construction projects shouldn’t be paid for with emergency funds. Congress should reject the administration’s request for $200 million for Ft. Greely, Alaska.

Ryan Alexander is the President of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Ryan Alexander

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