Big surge for military in Trump budget, big cuts elsewhere
President Donald Trump is proposing a huge $54 billion surge in U.S. military spending for new aircraft, ships and fighters in his first federal budget while slashing big chunks from domestic programs and foreign aid to make the government “do more with less.”
The Trump blueprint, due in more detail next month, would fulfil the Republican president’s campaign pledge to boost Pentagon spending while targeting the budgets of other federal agencies. The “topline” figures emerged Monday, one day before Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress, an opportunity to re-emphasize the economic issues that were a centerpiece of his White House run.
Domestic programs and foreign aid would as a whole absorb a 10 per cent, $54 billion cut from currently projected levels cuts that would match the military increase. The cuts would be felt far more deeply by programs and agencies targeted by Trump and his fellow Republicans, like the Environmental Protection Agency as well as foreign aid. Veterans’ programs would be exempted, as would border security, additional law enforcement functions and some other areas.
“We’re going to start spending on infrastructure big. It’s not like we have a choice - our highways, our bridges are unsafe, our tunnels,” the president told a group of governors at the White House on Monday. He added, “We’re going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people.”
However, Trump’s final version of the budget is sure to leave large deficits intact - or even add to them if he follows through on his campaign promise for a huge tax cut.
His plan faces strong opposition from Democrats, who possess the power to block it. The immediate reaction from Republicans was mixed, with prominent defence hawks like Sen. John McCain of Arizona saying it would do too little to help the Pentagon and fiscal conservatives and supporters of domestic agencies expressing caution.
The White House indicated that the foreign aid cuts would be particularly large.
Asked about those plans, top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky would say only, “We’ll see how it works out.” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., declined to comment when approached in a Capitol hallway.
A congressional showdown is inevitable later this year, and a government shutdown a real possibility.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the spike in Pentagon spending would bring the total defence budget to a record $603 billion - and that’s before including tens of billions of dollars for overseas military operations.
The United States already spends more on defence than the next seven countries combined, but military leaders have complained repeatedly that aircraft are aging.