How Obama Will Pay for His War (Video)
The White House doesn’t know yet how much the new war with ISIS will cost, but it knows how it will pay for it: the all-purpose war funding credit card.
Officially known as Overseas Contingency Operations, it’s the catchall account used to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that is now funding the war against the group also known as the Islamic State or ISIL.
The White House is counting on OCO money in the pending continuing resolution to pay for President Barack Obama’s plan to go on offense against the group.
In a practical sense, a vote for the CR is a vote to fund Obama’s war, even though the words “ISIS” and “ISIL” do not appear anywhere in the text. In the draft House CR, it’s simply listed as funding for “Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism.”
The White House is confident the OCO funding included by House Republicans in their first CR draft will be enough for now, because the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan has created room for more war spending somewhere else.
Obama had requested a sharp cut in the OCO — from $85 billion to $58.6 billion in the upcoming fiscal year starting Oct. 1 — to reflect the drawdown in Afghanistan, but the CR funds OCO at the $85 billion level. Bottom line: It makes billions available for the new war.
So far, the White House hasn’t come up with a ballpark figure for how much the effort will cost, or at least it hasn’t given that number to Congress or to CQ Roll Call.
It certainly will be hundreds of millions of dollars a month — given that the operation was already costing $7.5 million a day through August, before the president dramatically escalated the mission. But there’s the potential for it to cost much more, although one would expect the lack of a ground invasion to reduce costs significantly relative to the earlier Iraq and Afghanistan invasions.
The White House hasn’t ducked the “war” word — Press Secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged the United States was “at war with ISIL” on Friday. But he was just as insistent in noting that it will not be like the previous Iraq War, and reiterated that no ground forces would be engaged in combat.