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McCain, Thornberry: Trump's proposed defense spending hike isn't enough

By TRAVIS J. TRITTEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 27, 2017

WASHINGTON – The Republican chairmen of the Senate and House armed services committees said Monday that President Donald Trump’s proposal to boost defense spending by $54 billion for fiscal year 2018 is not enough.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, are pushing for a $640-billion base defense budget and said the $603-billion proposal unveiled by the White House will not reverse the decline in recent years in spending and military readiness.

The White House released a spending cap-busting, top-line figure following pledges by Trump for a major defense buildup but declined to provide details of how the additional money will be used. It plans to release a fully detailed defense budget in May and that must be passed by Congress.

“With a world on fire, America cannot secure peace through strength with just 3 percent more than President [Barack] Obama’s budget. We can and must do better,” McCain said in a released statement.

McCain said the Trump proposal is an increase of $18.5 billion over an estimate of needed military funding for 2018 made by the Obama administration.

The Obama-era spending “left our military underfunded, undersized, and unready to confront threats to our national security,” he said.

Thornberry said defense funding fell 20 percent under Obama while security threats around the world have proliferated.

“While we cannot repair all of the damage done by those cuts in a single year, we can and should do more than this level of funding will allow,” Thornberry said about the Trump increase in a released statement.

Falling defense funding has occurred partly from the drawdown of costly ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and from caps on federal spending – often referred to as sequestration – which were passed by Congress in 2011 to reduce public debt.

The caps, which are set to keep defense spending at $549 billion in 2018, have forced down the budget even as the military remains busy around the world, causing the Pentagon to warn about severe maintenance and training shortfalls.

Trump has called for a major increase in defense spending but the plan still faces financial and political hurdles on Capitol Hill. Any increase in the spending caps will likely require a deal with Democrats.

Mick Mulvaney, the director the White House Office of Management and Budget, said Monday the increase will come from cutting spending from other areas of the federal budget such as foreign aid.

Larger decisions of paring back much more expensive programs, such as entitlements like Medicare, will come in the future, he said.

Democrats are likely to strongly oppose big cuts to entitlements and other areas of the federal budget to benefit defense. In past years, they have demanded any increase in the budget caps for the military be accompanied with increases to domestic programs.

tritten.travis@stripes.com
Twitter: @Travis_Tritten
 

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, are pushing for a $640-billion base defense budget.
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