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Trump to Ask for $716 Billion for Defense Spending

The $716 billion figure for 2019 would cover the Pentagon’s annual budget as well as spending on ongoing wars and the maintenance of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. (David B. Gleason / CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Trump administration is expected to request a raise in the defense budget to $716 billion in 2019, a significant increase—7 percent—over the prior year, The Washington Post reported Friday. The request is considered by many to be a shift away from the administration’s expressed concerns about rising deficits.

If approved, the new budget would be a victory for Defense Secretary James Mattis, who last week argued in favor of an increase to prepare for the possibility of armed conflict with Russia or China, or perhaps “rouge nations” like North Korea. The Pentagon’s unclassified, 11-page summary of the National Defense Strategy did not provide details on how a shift toward addressing China and Russia would be enacted but did state that spending requests would reflect this goal. Last week, Mattis said the U.S. military’s competitive edge had eroded “in every domain of warfare,” partly because of inconsistent funding.

“As hard as the last 16 years have been, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act, defense spending cuts and operating in nine of the last 10 years under continuing resolutions,” he said.

The increase would cover the Pentagon’s annual budget, as well as spending to support ongoing wars and to maintain the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pentagon officials said the budget increase would prioritize preparing for conflict with “major world powers” and “modernize the military’s aging weapons systems.”

The U.S. spent about $634 billion on defense in 2017, and because Congress has not yet passed the 2018 budget, spending continues at 2017 levels.

Mark Cancian, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Washington Post that the increase is a “huge deal” and indicated that the Trump administration is “putting resources against an extremely aggressive defense strategy.”

The Washington Post continues:

Trump touted his 2018 defense budget as one of the largest in U.S. history, but the proposal was seen as something of a disappointment inside the Pentagon and among defense hawks in Congress.

Many lawmakers have pushed for the military budget to increase far beyond what Trump proposed last year. Trump sought $668 billion in spending for national defense in 2018, but Congress passed a bipartisan defense authorization bill late last year that would direct roughly $700 billion to military spending. That bill authorizes military spending but does not actually appropriate it, which would have to be done through a different act of Congress. …

The increase is likely to please defense hawks such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has assured the White House that there is support among lawmakers for major increases to Pentagon spending, said Mackenzie Eaglen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

“What Mattis is saying is that you can’t have the best military in the world on an Obama budget,” Cancian told the Post.

Emily Wells
​Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise...
Emily Wells

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