Pentagon officials are pushing hard for Congress to relax the September 30 deadline to budget out their operation and maintenance budget, which amounts to about 40% of the Pentagon’s budget, $253 billion in 2017, and growing even more in 2018.
That’s a lot of money to spend, and not a lot of time to spend it. Top officials in all branches of the military say that they need “flexibility” in the time to budget how they spend it all.
Officials are arguing that this lack of a deadline would allow them to spend all this money more responsibly, though clearly another danger is that these huge budgets of barely-appropriated money could become another slush fund for the Pentagon to bankroll projects not approved by Congress.
Indeed, the whole reason this deadline was put in place in the first place was to make sure Congress wasn’t over-funding such programs, and to give them guidance on the sort of money needed the following year.
In admitting they’ve got more money than they can spend, the Pentagon is effectively admitting they’ve been overfunded in this case, but feverish attempts by the president and Congress to keep growing the budget seems to have them convinced that they don’t have to worry about this impacting what they’ll get in 2019 and beyond.