Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2017

Floor Speech

Date: June 15, 2016
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chairman, I am here, once again, to talk about the overseas contingency operations budget. My opinion of it by now should be no secret to anybody. I don't like it very much. There are other folks who agree with me. Unfortunately, not enough. But I will continue to come here and try to draw attention to what I believe to be a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars.

There are folks, by the way, who agree with me. I don't often come to this microphone and cite John McCain as somebody who agrees with me on something, but he has described it as a gimmick and thinks that we can do better. The CBO described it as a method of spending with ``relatively little backup.'' Other folks in this Chamber from both parties have described as a slush fund. I happen to agree with all of those statements.

In the past, I have come here, Mr. Chairman, to try and simply get rid of the OCO budget because of the weaknesses that I think it contains. We are not doing that today. We have tried something different. We have tried to drill down a little bit and be a little bit more detailed in how we address the OCO budget by simply trying to define what it means to be OCO. We call it the war budget, but we don't really know what it means.

We tried today to figure out a way to define what it means. Lo and behold, we found out that in law, it is already defined. If you turn to title 10, section 101 of the U.S. Code, the definition of the Armed Forces section of the U.S. Code, General Military Law, Organization and General Military Powers, Chapter 1--Definitions, lo and behold, in section 13, the term ``contingency operation'' is defined. It reads as follows:

``The term `contingency operation' means a military operation that:

``(A) is designated by the Secretary of Defense as an operation in which members of the armed forces are or may become involved in military actions, operations, or hostilities against an enemy of the United States or against an opposing military force; or

``(B) results in the call or order to, or retention on, active duty of members of the uniformed services . . . or any other provision of law during a war or during a national emergency declared by the President or Congress.''

Contingency operations are defined in law, and have been for quite some time. Mr. Chairman, we have been ignoring that.

My amendment is very simple. It puts a stop to that. My amendment simply says that none of the funds available under title IX of this bill should be used in contravention of section 101(a)(13) title 10 of the United States Code. That is it. That is all it does. It simply says, in layman's terms, the overseas contingency operations will be used for contingency operations. To change the words a little bit to the stuff that ordinary people can understand, what the amendment does is make sure that the war budget is used for warfighters in the war effort and is no longer used as a slush fund to hide government spending from the taxpayers.

I urge my colleagues, even those who have opposed my efforts before, to completely discontinue the OCO budget, to bring some modicum of discipline to spending the war budget, making sure that it is spent on what the law provides, and not used on things that we have no idea where the money is being spent, which is so often the case.

I urge my colleagues to support the amendment.

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Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chair, again, with all due respect to my friend, the gentleman from New York, to suggest that if my amendment passes, that somehow readiness will go down admits that we are spending money in violation of the law. Contingency operations are not meant for readiness. That is what the base military budget is for. We should be doing that anyway. I share in the concern of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle about the size of the military and our readiness, but that is not war. Readiness to go to war is not war. This is not supposed to be a replacement for the base budget. This should be, as my colleague from New York correctly pointed out, part of the war on terror. The OCO budget should be used to fight ISIS overseas, and it should be used to fight in Iraq and to fight in Syria. It should not be used for items that are not contingency operations.

I go back to the example of the MILCON-VA bill that we had here a couple of weeks ago. We had no direction as to where money was being spent. I had a subcommittee chairman get up and say, ``Well, it is going to be a health facility in Djibouti.'' Nothing in law says that-- nothing. The only thing we passed out of this House was X number of dollars to be spent overseas before 2022. That is it. You could sit here and say, ``Well, this money is for the troops, or this money is for a base.'' No, it is not. This money is for whatever we decide we want to spend it on, and that is not right.

The OCO budget came into existence for a good reason. We were caught in 2011 without the ability to fund a war on terror, and we started spending money off budget to solve that problem. It is no longer an emergency. We should be having this money for readiness in the base budget. We should pass this amendment so that the OCO budget returns to what it is meant to be.

Mr. Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. MULVANEY. Mr. Chair, I demand a recorded vote.

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