President Trump is due to unveil his 2019 budget next month, and it once again will include a whopping increase in proposed defense spending, according to The Washington Post. Trump is expected to ask for $716 billion for defense, an increase of 7 percent over 2018 levels and of 13 percent over 2017 spending.
Trump’s budget is just a proposal — and a largely symbolic one at that. But it carries some weight as a political document, setting a White House target for Congress as lawmakers work to finalize a two-year spending deal that would exceed the caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act. The large increase in military spending also “signals a shift away from concerns about rising deficits,” the Post’s Greg Jaffe and Damian Paletta write. The proposed increase is so large that finding offsetting spending cuts would be improbable if not impossible.
The president’s budget last year called for $668 billion in defense spending, “but the proposal was seen as something of a disappointment inside the Pentagon and among defense hawks in Congress,” the Post notes. Late last year, Congress passed a bill authorizing $700 billion in defense spending for fiscal 2018, though that money has yet to be appropriated.
The new budget represents a win for Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has been pushing for a large increase in military spending. “As hard as the last 16 years have been, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act, defense spending cuts and operating in nine of the last 10 years under continuing resolutions,” Mattis said last week in presenting the first new National Defense Strategy in 10 years.
His efforts faced some pushback from White House officials including budget director Mick Mulvaney, “who worried that the deficit would explode with a large increase in military spending, combined with the president’s tax cuts,” the Post notes.
“If this [$716 billion] is the number,” Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at CSIS, told the Post, “then the battle between Mattis and Mulvaney is over and Mattis won.”