Trump Seeks $639 Billion for Defense Department, Up 10%

March 17, 2017


President Donald Trump is proposing a $639 billion Pentagon budget for fiscal 2018 that pledges to accelerate combat against Islamic State terrorists and replenish a U.S. military worn out by 15 years of war operations.

“The president’s 2018 budget ends the arbitrary depletion of our strength and security and begins to rebuild our U.S. armed forces,” the White House said in a budget outline released Thursday for the year that begins Oct. 1.

The boost to the Defense Department would come at the expense of discretionary spending for most other government agencies, a trade-off already meeting resistance from Democrats in Congress. Under Trump’s request, the Pentagon would receive $574 billion for its regular budget, an increase of 10 percent increase, or $52.3 billion, over fiscal 2016, the last time Congress enacted a full-year budget. Separately, the Pentagon would get $65 billion in war-fighting funds, a $6.4 billion boost from the 2016 level.

Complicating the political future for Trump’s budget request is its pairing with a proposal to increase defense by $30 billion in fiscal 2017, the current year. For that, the White House is proposing about $18 billion in offsetting cuts to domestic programs, reductions unpalatable for Senate Democrats who have the ability to block it.

The U.S. government is financed under a stopgap funding measure through April 28 because Congress hasn’t approved any of the 2017 spending bills. That means some of the spending levels cited by the administration for comparisons are subject to change.

Budget Caps

Trump’s first defense budget request assumes that budget caps currently in law would be repealed. That, however, requires an act of Congress, and congressional Democrats already are dug in against any move that would decimate domestic programs.

At the same time, Republicans who support robust defense spending said Trump isn’t offering enough to rebuild the military.

“Such a budget does not represent a 10 percent increase as previously described by the White House, but amounts to a mere 3 percent over President Obama’s defense plan, which has left our military underfunded, undersized and unready to meet the threats of today and tomorrow,” John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said in an emailed statement. He said that he and Mac Thornberry of Texas, who heads the House Armed Services Committee, will push together for more.

While sparse on details, Trump’s proposed spending for fiscal 2018 would include funding for munition stocks, equipment maintenance and modernization, personnel increases and cyber warfare, according to the administration document.

“We are not throwing money after a problem and claiming we fixed it,” Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, told reporters in a budget briefing. He said the Defense Department gave assurances it can spend the added money “in a responsible fashion.”

The budget request is also a “down payment” on increasing the U.S. Navy fleet, the White House said. Trump pledged in his campaign to expand the Navy’s fleet to 350 vessels from about 272 today, which the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimates would cost an average of $4 billion a year for construction alone.

Navy Increase

The Navy set a goal of 305 ships under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. Ashton Carter, Obama’s defense secretary, warned about “irresponsibly” exceeding that goal at the risk of sacrificing quality for quantity. But in December, after the election, the Navy echoed Trump in a new assessment, saying it needed as many as 355 ships.

Trump also promised this month that he’ll provide the “12-carrier Navy we need.” There are 10 carriers in service today.

Additional surface ships and submarines would benefit the nation’s top warship makers — Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. and the marine unit of General Dynamics Corp.

Also, increases in the Army and Marine Corps would benefit military vehicle builders General Dynamics and BAE Systems Plc, as well as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co., makers of air defense and anti-armor systems such as Thaad, Patriot and the Javelin…

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