NATO's commander made his pitch for continued funding of the European Deterrence Initiative and its military construction projects ahead of the expected release next week of the Defense Department's budget request for fiscal 2020.
Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who doubles as NATO commander and head of U.S. European Command, said funding of the initiative, which now stands at $6.5 billion, is vital to carrying out the National Defense Strategy and other directives aimed in part at countering Russian aggression.
"I cannot stress enough that [European Command's] ongoing and future success in implementing and executing these strategies is only possible with Congress' support, especially the sustained funding of EDI," he said in prepared remarks for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.
Scaparrotti also renewed his recommendation for moving the European Defense Initiative out of the funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which is not subject to the spending limits of the Budget Control Act of 2011, and into the baseline DoD budget to provide stability of resourcing.
"Really, what we need is predictability. OCO tends to fluctuate each year," he said in response to questions from Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.
The initiative "provides funding to improve our deterrence posture and execute our deterrent initiatives and activities, and also helps provide "the necessary infrastructure to respond to adversaries in a timely manner," Scaparrotti said.
About $800 million of the current $6.7 billion appropriated for EDI in the fiscal 2019 budget was slated for military construction projects, ranging from storehouses and railheads to airfields and barracks.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, questioned Scaparrotti on whether any of the military construction projects in EDI would be "reduced, delayed or eliminated" under the national emergency President Donald Trump has declared to get funding for the southern border wall.
Trump and White House officials have said that up to $3.6 billion in military construction projects already funded by Congress could be targeted in the effort to raise about $8.1 billion for the border wall.
Kaine asked whether Scaparrotti had been given a list of projects in Europe whose funding could be diverted to the border wall.
"Not with respect to this [national emergency] proposal," Scaparrotti said.
"No one has discussed it with me," he said. But should orders come down to pick projects that can be put on hold to fund the border wall, "I expect I'll be in the decision loop."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.