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Trump seeks defense boost for 2018, $30B supplemental for 2017

March 16, 2017 (Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump announced a $1.1 trillion budget proposal to Congress on Thursday that boosts investments in national security at the expense of environmental protections and foreign aid.

The budget includes an expected $54 billion defense increase, offset by domestic-side cuts, including a 28 percent cut for the State Department. The broad-brushstrokes plan signaled the White House’s intent to restore a “depleted” military, despite criticism from hawkish lawmakers it is not enough.

"This is a hard power budget, it is not a soft power budget,” White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney told reporters Wednesday. “And that was done intentionally. That’s what our allies can expect. That’s what our adversaries can expect.”

The "skinny budget" request includes $639 billion for the Defense Department, including $574 billion in the base budget and $65 billion in the emergency Overseas Contingency Operations account. 

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and his House counterpart Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, have said a $640 billion defense budget is needed and that the administration's numbers mask a less robust increase than they would like.

"It is clear to virtually everyone that we have cut our military too much and that it has suffered enormous damage," Thornberry said in a statement Thursday morning. "In fact, the more we investigate, the deeper the damage we find. Unfortunately, the Administration’s budget request is not enough to repair that damage and to rebuild the military as the President has discussed."

Elsewhere in the budget, the request for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development sees a 28 percent reduction that includes the proposed transformation of the foreign military financing program from grants to loans. That excludes the $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel.

Congress is unlikely to adopt the budget blueprint as offered, as it includes deep cuts for the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and National Institutes of Health. Democratic lawmakers have warned they will not pass a budget without matching any defense increase on the non-defense side.

Administration also sent a $30 billion supplemental funding request for the military, and $1.5 billion for a border wall, in the current year. Of the total, roughly $24.9 billion is in Defense Department base-budget programs and $5 billion is in OCO.



That is a huge wrinkle, according to Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The base-budget funding requires increasing the budget caps for fiscal 2017. 

"Five billion comes from OCO, but the other $25 billion is in the base budget, which requires increasing the budget caps for fiscal 2017," Harrison said. "That’s unlikely to happen because changing the caps requires 60 votes in the Senate, and this proposal also includes $18 billion in cuts for non-defense in fiscal 2017 and $3 billion for the wall. This means the fiscal 2017 supplemental is unlikely to pass as proposed."

The request's $24.9 billion in Defense Department base-budget programs include $13.5 billion Army helicopters, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and F/A-18 Super Hornets, tactical missiles, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, and further funding for the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

The administration wants $7.2 billion in operations and maintenance funds, to address readiness shortfalls and to improve cyber and intelligence capabilities. 

There is another $5.1 for the campaign against the Islamic State group and for operations in Afghanistan.

Of that, the administration wants $1.4 billion to go toward the fight against ISIS, specifically for force protection, precision-guided munitions and countermeasures against the militant group's lethal drone program.

There is $2 billion for a “flexible fund” to augment U.S. counterterrorism activities and a $626 million fund that consolidates all counter-ISIS train-and-equip programs. The request also includes $1.1 billion for Afghanistan operations.

Additionally, the request includes $3 billion for Department of Homeland Security border protection and immigration enforcement programs. Of that, half is for the border wall — a provision which Senate Democrats warn they will oppose.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., offered a statement Thursday saying his committee will review requests and aim to "strike a balance that will enable us to fund the federal government responsibly and address emergency needs, while ensuring this legislation will clear the Congress.” 

"As directed under the Constitution, Congress has the power of the purse. While the President may offer proposals, Congress must review both requests to assure the wise investment of taxpayer dollars," he said.


Email:  jgould@defensenews.com     

Twitter:  @reporterjoe 

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