House GOP Leaders Look to Boost Spending in Campaign Against ISIS

Rep. William "Mac" Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, makes a visit to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. (AF photo)
Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, makes a visit to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. (AF photo)

House Republicans are looking at ways to increase funding for combating ISIS through the account for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), often called the war budget, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Tuesday.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Tex., also proposed naming a four-star general to run the military aspects of the campaign against ISIS to avoid "micromanagement" by the White House National Security Council (NSC) staff.

Thornberry did not did not specify numbers in his remarks on the defense budget but said that he and others had been tasked by the House leadership "to work together on a response to ISIS and terrorism" that could involve shifting money within the existing OCO account this year or next year.

"We're looking at the resource issue" to boost the campaign against ISIS, Thornberry said at a roundtable session with defense reporters.

"Yes, I do think we need greater resources in the OCO account to have a more significant effort," Thornberry said. He noted that $5 billion had to be cut from the agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act "and so I do believe that greater resources are going to be needed to be serious."

The OCO account is in addition to the military's base budget and was expected to be in the range of $90 billion for Fiscal Year 2016.

In his criticism of President Obama's strategy against ISIS, Thornberry said "It's interesting to me (that) the French have carried out all these bombing runs over the past couple of days all on targets we gave them. The question is -- why haven't we hit those targets already."

"My basic point is we need the military to be in charge of the military campaign in Iraq and Syria," he said. "I think there ought to be consideration for a four-star there locally to run the campaign. This cannot be run from Tampa (headquarters of U.S. Central Command). It certainly can't be run from the bowels of the White House."

Thornberry was less clear on how the four-star general he was proposing would function any differently from Army Lt. Gen. Sean McFarland, the current commander in Baghdad of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

"I don't think he (McFarland) has the responsibility to comprehensively look at -- to run the war more in the way that Army Gen. John Campbell, the U.S. and NATO commander, does in Afghanistan," Thornberry said.

Thornberry echoed the barrage of criticism aimed at President Obama by other Republicans since the terror attacks in Paris last Friday.

In a Senate floor speech Tuesday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, renewed charges he has made for years against President Obama as commander-in-chief -- that he lacks a coherent strategy and the will to defeat the ISIS threat.

To reverse course on a failed policy, McCain said "We must recognize that our indirect efforts to support our partners on the ground -- Iraqi Security Forces, moderate Syrian opposition forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and Sunni tribal forces -- are insufficient to outpace the growing threat we face."

He said that the U.S. "must therefore work to assemble an international ground force of European and Arab partners to help lead this fight more directly. That will only happen if the United States contributes military advisers, trainers, and forward air controllers in the numbers required to make this international coalition effective. That will likely entail a commitment on the order of 10,000 U.S. troops."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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