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Pentagon would see 10% spending boost under Trump's 'hard-power budget'

President Donald Trump after speaking on Mar. 2  to Navy and shipyard personnel aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)
President Donald Trump after speaking on Mar. 2 to Navy and shipyard personnel aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

President Trump's first budget proposal calls for the largest increase in Pentagon spending since President Reagan's defense buildup in the 1980s, proposing more money to fight Islamic State and to buy stealth fighter jets, warships and new weapons. 

The president's plan asks Congress to allocate $639 billion for the military in the next fiscal year, a boost of $52 billion over current spending.

"This is a hard-power budget," Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters Wednesday. "And that was done intentionally. The president very clearly wants to send a message to our allies and our potential adversaries that this is a strong-power administration."

The White House also sent a letter to Congress on Thursday seeking additional money for the final five months of the current fiscal year, which includes a $25-billion increase in base defense spending.

The call for a 10% boost in military spending is unsurprising for Trump, who as a candidate vowed to increase the Pentagon budget.

The budget blueprint says the additional money is needed to strengthen the Army, rebuild the Navy, ensure a fully equipped Marine Corps and accelerate Air Force efforts to "improve tactical air fleet readiness, ensure technical superiority, and repair aging infrastructure.”

Defense hawks in the GOP, led by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee,   and Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, have advocated for a $640-billion base defense budget.

When combined with the special $65-billion fund that Congress gives the Pentagon to fight overseas wars, that would produce a total defense budget of $705 billion, more than Trump has proposed.

"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. "Unfortunately, the administration’s budget request is not enough to repair that damage and to rebuild the military as the president has discussed."

McCain said in a separate statement that the Trump budget proposal cannot pass the Senate.

“Moving forward, it is imperative that we work together to reach a bipartisan agreement that provides sufficient funds to rebuild the military,” he said.

The Pentagon long has complained about the effects of the so-called sequestration across-the-board spending cuts that were part of a 2011 budget deal with Congress that were intended to be so unpalatable they would never be enacted.

But they took effect in 2013 after lawmakers failed to reach a compromise to avert them. The pleas to lift the spending restraints have produced only temporary, and partial, changes.

The Pentagon's budget fell by more than $100 billion between 2011 and 2014 as the Obama administration withdrew troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although the U.S. military budget is the world's largest by far, top U.S. military leaders have griped about fighting Islamic State and other terrorist groups while preparing to confront threats from Russia and China.

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