White House touts increase, but hawks say it’s not enough

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn.


By DAN LAMOTHE | The Washington Post | Published: March 16, 2017

WASHINGTON - The Trump administration touts its new proposed budget for the Defense Department as one of the largest single-year increases in defense spending in U.S. history, but budget documents show that it would amount to about a 3 percent increase over spending this year and falls significantly short of plans proposed by defense hawks on Capitol Hill.

The administration argues in 2018 budget documents that spending $603 billion on defense would lead to a stronger military and address concerns about how well-equipped, armed and cared for the military is after more than 15 years at war.

But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, in January called for $640 billion in defense spending. McCain said last month that the White House must increase it by more than 3 percent because a "world on fire" makes it necessary.

The Trump administration said that its proposed increase "is exceeded only by the peak increases of the Reagan Administration and a few of the largest defense increases during the World Wars and the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan." The money proposed would "primarily invest in a stronger military," rather than being consumed in combat operations, the administration said.

But the president must make that case while simultaneously expanding operations in several combat zones. Since Trump took over, the military has sent hundreds of troops to Syria in anticipation of an offensive on the city of Raqqa, launched dozens of airstrikes and a controversial ground raid in Yemen, and considered giving Special Operations units authority to launch missions in Somalia and Libya. Hundreds more U.S. troops may still be sent to Syria in coming weeks, and senior military officials are debating sending thousands more to Afghanistan.

The budget proposal documents include few specifics about how defense spending will be allocated but repeat administration promises to accelerate the military campaign against the Islamic State and boost cyberwarfare capabilities.

A senior military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the budget ahead of its rollout, said Pentagon officials also are anticipating the release Thursday of a budget amendment that will add $30 billion in defense spending in 2017.


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