Is President Trump’s Defense Budget Enough?

March 3, 2017

President Donald Trump's inaugural address to Congress on Wednesday outlined his plan for a broad shake-up of fiscal priorities aimed at boosting defense spending.

Trump stated, “Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.”

He went on to say, “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”.

The budget would increase base defense spending by $54 billion, or about 10 percent, compared to FY 2017. The administration also plans to submit a $30 billion supplemental spending proposal for the current year.

Specific details of the administration's plan aren't expected until sometime in early May.

To fund the $54 billion increase for FY 2018 without increasing the deficit, the administration plans to cut $54 billion from domestic programs, which is sure to cause a political uproar on the Hill, given both parties' spending priorities.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said this week that non-military spending will take the “largest proposed reduction since the early years of the Reagan administration”.

While many in Congress, especially the defense hawks, have applauded the defense increase, several in key leadership positions on the Armed Services committees say it is not nearly enough.

The administration termed the $603 billion budget request, which is an increase of $18.5 billion over what the Obama administration had proposed for FY 2018, as an increase of 10 percent, but that number is only in comparison to sequestration levels of $549 billion. So in reality, says Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), Chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, “That's really only a 3-percent increase and is fake budgeting”.

Sequestration has not been triggered since 2013. Pres. Obama's 2017 budget request and 2018 planned request both went over sequestration limits, which required Congress to pass a separate budget deal to avoid automatic cuts in defense and non-defense spending.

President Trump's budget proposal does not go above the total cap. Instead, as stated earlier, it takes $54 billion from domestic agencies and gives it to DOD.

“We can and should do more,” was House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry's (R-Tex.) response to the administration's budget proposal. Thornberry wants to increase the defense budget by as much as $100 billion.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, John McCain (R-Ariz.), echoed the same frustration, stating “With a world on fire, America cannot secure peace through strength with just 3 percent more than Pres. Obama's budget, “we can and must do better”. McCain said he and Thornberry agree on a defense budget of $640 billion “as a first step toward restoring military readiness, rebuilding our military, and reshaping our forces for the realities of 21st century warfare.”

Bottom line, Trump has some persuading to do in order to get his budget plan passed in a tough political environment.

MOAA will continue to provide updates and insights as the new administration's defense proposals work their way through the legislative process, so stay tuned.


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