WASHINGTON — The Overseas Contingency Operations account is a somewhat obscure mechanism that has proven to be a critical tool in maintaining the international affairs budget in the United States.
The account, originally intended to help the Department of Defense pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is considered an emergency account and is not subject to the budget caps imposed on U.S. appropriators. In the years since its creation, the OCO account has been used for an increasingly broad range of U.S. programs, and even some of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s operating expenses.
The fund has often drawn ire from people on both sides of the political spectrum who have criticized its use. Recently Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren, suggested eliminating the account as part of her proposal to fund her Medicare for All plan.
Watch this explainer video to find out more about the OCO account, how it was created and the role it plays today in U.S. aid funding.