President Donald Trump proposed a $54 billion increase in defense spending Thursday as promised, a plan that the White House says will provide the necessary funding to ramp up the fight against ISIS, improve troop readiness and build new ships and planes.
Released as part of Trump’s $1.1 trillion budget outline for 2018, the 10% boost to the military comes at the expense of deep cuts to non-defense spending at the State Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and dozens of other federal programs.
“The core of my first budget blueprint is the rebuilding of our nation’s military without adding to our federal deficit,” Trump said in a letter attached to the budget.
The President’s request, which will raise spending for the Defense Department to $639 billion for fiscal year 2018, aims to fulfill several of the promises he made on the campaign trail and early in his presidency, including efforts to “demolish and destroy” ISIS, increase the total number of ships in the US Navy fleet and build additional F-35 fighter jets to expand the Air Force.
“To keep America safe, we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war. If they must, they have to fight, and they only have to win,” Trump told lawmakers, military brass and members of his Cabinet during his recent address to Congress.
“I am sending Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.”
However, lifting the sequester — the military spending caps implemented by Congress and the Obama administration in 2013 — could be a tall task for Trump, with 60 votes needed in the Senate and no guarantee that Democrats will go along.
Even under the sequester’s funding limitations, US defense spending has dwarfed that of any other nation, totaling as much as the next seven nearest countries’ military spending combined in 2014.
On the other side of the aisle, some Republicans are voicing concerns that Trump’s proposed budget blueprint doesn’t increase military spending enough.
“It is clear to virtually everyone that we have cut our military too much and that it has suffered enormous damage,” said Texas Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “Unfortunately, the administration’s budget request is not enough to repair that damage and to rebuild the military as the President has discussed.”
Trump’s budget, if approved by Congress, would not take effect until the new fiscal year on October 1, but the White House has also submitted a supplemental request to Congress for an additional $30 billion in defense funding for the rest of 2017.
Several big-ticket military priorities are highlighted in the proposal for 2017 as “urgent warfighting readiness needs,” including a $13.5 billion request to build and modernize additional Army Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, F-35 and F/A 18 fighter jets, tactical missiles and unmanned aircraft.
More than $3 billion of the addition money would be allocated to the fight against ISIS, including $2 billion for a flexible fund that would allow the Pentagon to decide how to utilize resources in support of the new counter-ISIS strategy.
The White House is also asking for $1.1 billion to support ongoing US operations in Afghanistan and infrastructure improvements to the Guantanamo Bay detention center.