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Budget watchdog: Trump’s military buildup plan would cost extra $683B

The Navy's most technologically advanced surface ship USS Zumwalt steams in formation with the USS Independence and the USS Bunker Hill in the Pacific Ocean in 2016. A proposed 30 percent increase in the number of Navy battle force ships is one factor accounting for a projected hike in military spending over the next 10 years.

ACE RHEAUME/U.S. NAVY

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 5, 2017

The military buildup proposed in the Trump administration’s 2018 budget would cost a total of $683 billion over the next 10 years, culminating in a Pentagon base budget a decade from now that would dwarf peak Cold War-era spending, a report said.

Between 2018 and 2027, efforts to increase the readiness and size of the force would drive the budget 12 percent higher than the costs laid out for those same years under the Obama administration’s final budget plan for the same period, said the Congressional Budget Office report, which was released on Monday.

President Donald Trump’s goals for the military “would result in steady increases in costs so that by 2027, the base budget (in 2018 dollars) would reach $688 billion, more than 20 percent larger than peak spending during the 1980s,” the CBO said.

Plans for a larger overall force account for most of the budget increase, with the administration seeking to have about 2.13 million military personnel in 2018 and 2.367 million by 2027. Previous projections under the Obama administration were for a force of 2.07 million by 2027, the CBO stated.

The Pentagon’s 2018 budget calls for spending $640 billion — $575 billion of that amount set aside for the Defense Department’s base budget, which funds day-to-day operations and procuring weapons systems. The base budget request is 3 percent higher than the projected amount for the same year as calculated against the previous administration’s goals.

In contrast, Russia’s 2017 defense budget is estimated at $65.4 billion and China’s at about $200 billion.

Besides added personnel expenditures, other factors include plans for the Navy to increase its fleet to 355 battle force ships, nearly 30 percent more than the current number.

For the Air Force, rising costs result primarily from existing plans to replace aging weapon systems. “Those plans include beginning production of new bombers, supersonic trainers, nuclear cruise missiles, and intercontinental ballistic missiles,” the CBO said.

The CBO’s projections include an additional increase in F-35 procurement — a rise in production rate from 60 aircraft to 80 aircraft per year, for a total of 132 additional aircraft by 2027.

Last month, lawmakers passed the 2018 budget, which now awaits the White House’s signature.

One obstacle that remains is the 2011 Budget Control Act, which caps the amount of money available for the Pentagon’s base budget. The 2018 budget exceeds the spending cap by $54 billion.

To avoid the automatic budget cut, Congress would have to eliminate or lift the spending caps or scale back military plans.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

 

An F-35 Lightning II streaks across the sky while doing maneuvers over the Eglin Air Force Base runway. An increase in procurement of the jets accounts for part of the hike in military spending over the next decade calculated by the Congressional Budget Office.
SAMUEL KING JR/U.S. AIR FORCE

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