As President Obama prepares to delineate a strategy for attacking the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in a speech tomorrow morning, lawmakers and experts are saying there appears to be growing financial and political will to meet the challenge.
Several experts have indicated that there is growing political will to confront ISIL as well as enough funding in the fiscal year 2015 Overseas Contingency Operation, or OCO, budget to fund continued air attacks against ISIL.
President Obama announced Friday that the U.S. and NATO would launch a military campaign to break up ISIL. Since June, the U.S. has spent more than $600 million on limited airstrikes and an advisory mission aimed at halting ISIL’s advance.
One senior lawmaker even said growing threats such as ISIL in Iraq and Syria and continued instability in Ukraine are contributing to a worldwide threat situation swaying Americans to support a stronger military.
In particular, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, predicted Friday that the automatic defense cuts set to begin again next fall, called sequestration, will be stopped, according to a report in the Virginian-Pilot.
Thornberry, who currently serves as the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he expects that more than $500 billion in planned defense cuts set to be made over a decade will likely be changed or undone by late next year, according to the report.
Meanwhile, Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, is among the experts who argue that the fiscal 2015 defense budget contains the money in the Overseas Contingency Operations account to deal with threats like ISIL.
“The war funding budget they set up this year … that’s got an awful lot of extra money,” Korb told Military.com.
The $58 billion OCO account is down significantly from $85 billion in fiscal 2014’s budget. However there is new money – about $4 billion – known as the Counter Terrorism Partnerships Fund, that’s designed for threats like ISIL, Korb said.
It’s still unclear how aggressively the U.S. plans to attack ISIL, but Obama said the NATO meeting in Wales showed “unanimity that ISIL poses a significant threat to NATO members.”
A continued air-bombardment campaign is likely affordable as long as a large numbers of ground troops — and the logical tail need to support them – doesn’t become part of the equation, said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonpartisan Washington think tank.
“You could ratchet up the air operations; the more sorties you fly the more it is going to cost,” Harrison said. “Certainly if we expand more operations into Syria, we are covering more area. You would need more [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] flights. There would be more targets, there would be more strike missions as well, but that would be scaling linearly with what we are already doing.”