Hagel, Dempsey: We’re Going to Need More Money from Congress

by Brendan Bordelon

After submitting plans to drastically reduce defense spending earlier this year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey both agreed that the U.S. military will require additional funding in order to effectively combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The top civilian and top military officer at the Pentagon appeared at a joint press conference on Friday to discuss the ongoing coalition air campaign against the jihadists. Hagel confirmed that the strikes are costing the United States an estimated $7 to $10 million a day, with the money coming from the Pentagon’s Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget. The OCO also funds the war in Afghanistan and is immune from sequestration cuts.

The Pentagon has requested $58 billion for OCO in Fiscal Year 2015, but Hagel said the Pentagon will need more than what’s in that fund for this year. He added that the Department of Defense is already working with the appropriate congressional committees to achieve that increase.

Dempsey agreed, further suggesting that the general Pentagon budget will probably prove insufficient. This spring, Dempsey explained, the Pentagon said that the planned budgets could meet the country’s security needs if the U.S. didn’t get involve in any more commitments and if the Department of Defense received more spending flexibility. But the department hasn’t gotten that flexibility and the U.S. does have a new commitment, Dempsey said, so the whole defense budget may need to be reexamined.

“So if you’re asking do I assess right now, as we go into the fall review for 2016, that we’re going to have budget problems? Yes,” the chairman of the joint chiefs said.

In February the Pentagon submitted plans to slash planned defense spending, with Hagel calling it “the first budget to fully reflect the transition [the Defense Department] is making after 13 years of war.”

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