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Supplemental defense budget request: $30B to address readiness

The U.S. Capitol, before dawn on Oct. 30, 2016.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 16, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s budget requests for $670 billion for defense through fiscal year 2018 need to represent “long-term growth in defense spending,” Pentagon officials said Thursday.

Trump proposed a $30 billion supplement for 2017 that would fund the Defense Department through Sept. 30, along with $639 billion for fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1.

Fiscal year 2017 “is the down payment,” said John P. Roth, the acting Pentagon comptroller. Roth was one of two senior defense officials who briefed reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday about the supplemental request, which has to be passed by Congress.

The bulk of the $30 billion would go toward Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ pledge to restore readiness to personnel and weapon systems worn down by 16 years of combat. The supplement would fund 36,000 new Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen; add $5 billion to carry out the campaign against the Islamic State group, and provide almost $24 billion for new weapons systems.

Army Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, who also briefed reporters, said this needs to be the start of long-term spending to sustain the new personnel and weapons systems.

“Growth for growth’s sake without the accompanying resources to ensure it can accomplish a mission assigned is not as good,” he said.

In the supplemental budget, Trump proposed $9.5 billion for the Navy and Marines Corps to specifically address an increase in training accidents as budget cuts and overseas operations have cut into flight training and ready aircraft.

It would also fund 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters and six P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft “to replenish combat-worn strike fighters and increase the number of ready available aircraft within 30-35 months,” according to budget documents. It would also add 41,000 flying hours for deployed and nondeployed aircrews and buy spare parts for an assortment of helicopters, aircraft and drones.

The Air Force would receive $7.4 billion, the bulk of which would go to procuring or modernizing unmanned and manned aircraft. The Air Force would also purchase five F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

Almost $400 million would go toward addressing the Air Force’s personnel shortages, specifically maintainers and pilots. The funds would be used to grow Air Force personnel from 317,000 to 321,000.

The Army would get $8.3 billion — more than $5 billion for new equipment, including $1.1 billion to replenish diminished ammunition stocks.

After the 2016 presidential election, the Republican-controlled Congress did not pass the final defense budget of outgoing President Barack Obama, instead pushing a temporary spending bill that funded incoming President Donald Trump’s government long enough to allow him to assert more budgetary control over his first year in office.

In a letter accompanying his 2018 budget, Trump said his proposed spending plan “repeals the defense sequestration spending by restoring $52 billion to DOD” – funds that had been shaved from the military’s overall spending since sequestration took effect in 2013. If Congress does not repeal the Budget Control Act, Trump’s budget would trigger sequestration’s automatic spending cuts and strip base budget funds over the 2018 defense spending cap of $549 billion.

In the past several years, lawmakers have gotten around the caps by adding money in the overseas contingency operations account, which is not capped.

copp.tara@stripes.com
Twitter:@TaraCopp

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