Trump Seeks 'Historic' Increase in Defense Spending

Donald Trump (Official White House photo)

Posted by Eric Haun

President Donald Trump is seeking what he called a "historic"
increase in military spending of more than 9 percent, a huge rise
even as the United States has wound down major wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan and remains the world's strongest military power.

Trump will seek to boost Pentagon spending in the next fiscal
year by $54 billion in his first budget proposal and slash the
same amount from non-defense spending, including a large
reduction in foreign aid, a White House budget official said on
Monday.

The president does not have the final say on federal spending.
His plan for the military is part of a budget proposal to
Congress, which, while it is controlled by his fellow
Republicans, will not necessarily follow his plans. Budget
negotiations with lawmakers can take months to play out.

Trump told state governors at the White House that his budget
plan includes a "historic increase in defense spending to rebuild
the depleted military of the United States of America."

"This is a landmark event and message to the world in these
dangerous times, of American strength, security and resolve. We
must ensure that our courageous servicemen and women have the
tools they need to deter war and when called upon to fight in our
name, only do one thing: Win," he said.

Officials familiar with Trump's proposal said the defense
increase would be financed partly by cuts to the State
Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other non-defense
programs.

"We're going to do more with less and make the government lean
and accountable to the people," Trump said.

Such a military spending hike would be unusual given that the
United States is not engaged in a major war, although its special
forces and Air Force are active against Islamic State in Iraq and
Syria.

An official familiar with the proposal said Trump's request for
the Pentagon included more money for shipbuilding, military
aircraft and establishing "a more robust presence in key
international waterways and choke points" such as the Strait of
Hormuz and South China Sea.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Governor's Dinner
in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S.,
February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

That could put Washington at odds with Iran and China. The United
States already has the world's most powerful fighting force and
it spends far more than any other country on defense.

Defense spending in the most recent fiscal year was $584 billion,
according to the Congressional Budget Office, so Trump's planned
$54 billion increase would be a rise of 9.2 percent. The next
fiscal year starts in October.

Big Cuts Elsewhere

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of
Representatives, said Trump's plan to slash funding for federal
agencies to free up money for the Pentagon shows he is not
putting American working families first.

"A $54 billion cut will do far-reaching and long-lasting damage
to our ability to meet the needs of the American people and win
the jobs of the future," Pelosi said. "The president is
surrendering America's leadership in innovation, education,
science and clean energy."

In a speech to conservative activists on Friday, Trump promised
"one of the greatest military buildups in American history."

A second official said the State Department's budget could be cut
by as much as 30 percent, which would force a major restructuring
of the department and elimination of programs.

The United States spends about $50 billion annually on the State
Department and foreign assistance.

More than 120 retired U.S. generals and admirals urged Congress
on Monday to fully fund U.S. diplomacy and foreign aid, saying
that "elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development
alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe."

Trump has previously said he would expand the Army to 540,000
active-duty troops from its current 480,000, increase the Marine
Corps from 23 to 36 battalions - or as many as 10,000 more
Marines - boost the Navy from 276 to 350 ships and submarines,
and raise the number of Air Force tactical aircraft from 1,100 to
1,200.

But he has not said where he would place the extra hardware and
forces or made clear what they will be used for. The United
States has been shutting some of its military bases in recent
years.

Trump has also said he would bolster the development of missile
defenses and cyber capabilities. Last week, he told Reuters the
United States has "fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity." He
pledged to ensure that, "We're going to be at the top of the
pack."

Trump also said on Monday he would talk about his plans for
infrastructure spending in a speech to Congress on Tuesday.
"We're going to start spending on infrastructure big," he said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking on Fox News on
Sunday, said Trump's budget would not seek cuts in federal social
programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

(By Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann and
David Alexander; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Frances
Kerry and Jonathan Oatis)

Feb 27, 2017

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