February 25, 2016

CNAS Press Note: The Defense Budget and the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Account

Washington, February 25 – As Congress debates the FY17 Defense Budget, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Strategy and Statecraft Program Researcher Michelle Shevin-Coetzee has written a new Press Note, “The Defense Budget and the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Account.”

The full Press Note is below:
Earlier this month, the president submitted his budget request to Congress, asking for a total of $582.7 billion to fund the Department of Defense. Split between $523.9 billion for the base budget and $58.8 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, the budget complies with the parameters outlined in the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act. Despite initial agreement, however, representatives and senators on Capitol Hill are now wasting no time in framing the latest discussion over the defense budget along partisan lines.
In particular, Democrats and Republicans differ over their interpretation of the legislation’s reference to the OCO fund. On the one hand, Democrats suggest that the $58.8 billion figure represents a ceiling, preventing the administration and Congress from shifting additional funds from the base budget to OCO. Republicans, on the other hand, assert that the current OCO number be treated as a floor, allowing the funding to increase by as much as $23 billion.
Much like in years past, this budget showdown will be contentious, with a combination of both substance and bluster. It will play out over the next few months and close out President Barack Obama’s administration. No matter who occupies the Oval Office next year, 2017 provides an opportunity for the next president, Congress, and secretary of defense, to execute the defense budget process on a clean slate. 

Shevin-Coetzee is available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at nurwitz@cnas.org or 202-457-9409.


  • Michelle Shevin-Coetzee