The practice of slipping unrelated or pet projects into spending bills for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — from new helicopters to fighter aircraft — has long been derided as deceptive and financially irresponsible.
But now lawmakers have taken the budget gimmickry to a whole new level — no longer even pretending that billions of dollars in additional war spending would go to fight Islamic State militants and the Taliban.
The proposals in the House and Senate to add about $38 billion to the Obama administration’s $58 billion war spending request threatens to create an authorized “slush fund,” according to budget analysts and spending critics.
The beefed-up war budget is an attractive option for both defense and fiscal hawks because it would not count against the spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act but is seen by some as a dangerous precedent for how Congress finances the Pentagon.
“It just risks becoming permanent business,” said Gordon Adams, a White House budget official in the Clinton administration who teaches at American University. “We just have a slush fund for defense, period.”