WASHINGTON — The Trump administration expects to deliver its fiscal 2020 budget on March 12, a six-week delay from the planned initial release date.
Three sources, speaking on background because there has been no formal announcement from the Office of Management and Budget, confirmed the March 12 target for the budget rollout. Although no dollar amount has been announced, the budget is expected to be in the range of $750 billion.
However, it is possible that date could slide should the government shut down once again, which could begin as soon as Feb. 16 should Congress and the White House fail to reach a new agreement.
News of the potential March 12 date was first reported by National Defense Magazine.
While the administration’s FY20 request will be the Pentagon’s first delivered under acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, it’s expected to be similar to what would have come from former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Shanahan said he intends to keep pushing priorities along the lines of the National Defense Strategy.
The Pentagon’s budget figure has dramatically seesawed over the last three months. The department had been planning for most of the year to a $733 billion defense top-line figure, until the moment at an October Cabinet meeting when President Donald Trump announced the figure would be $700 billion.
That number, delivered close to the planned budget finalization date of Dec. 1, sent planners into a frenzy as they attempted to develop a pair of budget offerings matched to both levels. The situation changed again when, following a meeting with Mattis and congressional defense leaders, Trump reportedly boosted the budget to $750 billion.
However, throughout December and early January, the department was stuck in an awkward place, unsure of exactly what its budget top line would be. Finally, on Jan. 9, acting Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist confirmed the Pentagon had locked in its final figure.
Trump, for his part, did hint that the figure will be closer to the higher reported number, telling an audience at the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Review rollout: “I gave you the greatest and biggest budget in our history. And I’ve now done it two times. And I hate to tell the rest of the world, but I’m about to do it three times.”
Joe Gould in Washington contributed to this report.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.