The White House on Thursday asked Congress for a $30 billion boost for the Pentagon to start fulfilling President Donald Trump’s campaign promise of rebuilding the U.S. military and accelerating the campaign against the Islamic State over the next six months.
In his supplemental budget request to Congress for fiscal year 2017, President Donald Trump asked for $5.1 billion to fund combat operations overseas, mainly to “end the threat ISIS poses to the United States.” Of that, $2 billion would be in a “flexible” fund to be used as needed to combat ISIS. It comes as Trump’s Pentagon considers deploying up to 1,000 more U.S. troops to help retake the terrorist group’s de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria.
$5.1 billion Estimate of the amount of funding that is needed to accelerate the U.S. campaign to defeat ISIS in FY 2017, according to the Pentagon
The supplemental budget allocates an extra $1.1 billion for the war in Afghanistan for what remains of the 2017 fiscal year. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson, told the Senate last month that “several thousand” more U.S. troops are needed to break the stalemate against the Taliban.
The 2017 request also asks for more funding for infrastructure projects, including at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, which is currently holding 41 detainees.
“It doesn’t seem like we are going to close it anytime soon,” the acting Pentagon comptroller, John Roth, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.
The rest of the supplemental funding, $24.9 billion, would go towards “urgent warfighting readiness needs,” to address shortfalls for troops’ training, equipment, munitions and modernization, according to Trump’s letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan. That amount includes $13.5 billion to build and modernize additional Army Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, F-35 and F/A 18 fighter jets, tactical missiles and unmanned aircraft.
Defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing, who make the aircraft, would be big beneficiaries of this proposal.
“The request is a first step in investing in a larger, more ready, and more capable force,” Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter to Congress.
According to the proposal, this spending would be partially offset by $18 billion in cuts to non-defense programs, although the White House did not specify where they would be made. The plan asks Congress to raise the defense spending cap for the 2017 fiscal year by $25 billion, to $576 billion.
The supplemental budget would cover the coming months until Sept. 30, when fiscal year 2017 ends.
Trump’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which was also released on Thursday, boosts military spending by $52 billion and designates $4 billion for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. It would go into effect on Oct. 1. The proposal drastically cuts funding for the State Department and foreign aid, and domestic budgets for education, health, agriculture and environmental programs.
Trump’s proposed budget outlines the military buildup he touted during his presidential campaign, including rebuilding the Navy. However, it does not placate defense hawks in Congress, who say the $52 billion boost for 2018 is not nearly enough to fix what they describe as a critical, and rapidly growing, readiness crisis.
“It is clear to virtually everyone that we have cut our military too much and that it has suffered enormous damage,” House Armed Services chairman Rep. Marc Thornberry, R-Texas, said. “Unfortunately, the administration’s budget request is not enough to repair that damage and to rebuild the military as the president has discussed.”
But he said he was pleased with the supplemental request for 2017, telling reporters that it was “more than I expected.”
“It is needed and will give us a head start on improving readiness and replacing old equipment. But, it is only one step,” he said.
Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who served under President Barack Obama, said on Thursday that a sudden, massive boost makes it more difficult for the Pentagon to plan defense spending and might be unsustainable.
“I don’t like defense spending that goes on a roller coaster ride, where one year it goes up dramatically by $54 billion and then next year, as a result of sequester or some crazy across the board cut, it’s dramatically cut,” he told Bloomberg.
He also said he disagreed with cutting State Department and foreign aid programs, which many military leaders have argued prevent unnecessary military spending in the long run.
“I believe like Jim Mattis does, that if you’re not going to provide foreign aid or help our diplomatic effort in dealing with other countries, then the bottom line is you have to buy more bullets,” he said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”