Trump seeks $54 bil­lion de­fense rise

Do­mes­tic, for­eign-aid cuts in plan

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Brian Ben­nett of Tri­bune News Ser­vice; by An­drew Taylor and staff mem­bers of The As­so­ci­ated Press; by Shannon Pettypiece, Jen­nifer Ja­cobs, Billy House, Jen­nifer A. Dlouhy, Nick Wad­hams, Justin Sink and Jenni

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has pro­posed a $54 bil­lion in­crease in de­fense spend­ing while cut­ting do­mes­tic spend­ing and for­eign aid by the same amount, the White House said Mon­day.

Trump’s spend­ing blue­print pre­ceded a key ad­dress that he will give tonight to a joint ses­sion of Congress, lay­ing out his vi­sion for what he called a “pub­lic safety and na­tional se­cu­rity bud­get” with a nearly 10 per­cent in­crease in de­fense spend­ing.

“We never win a war. We never win. And we don’t fight to win. We don’t fight to win,” Trump said Mon­day in re­marks to the na­tion’s gov­er­nors. “So we ei­ther got to win or don’t

fight it at all.”

Trump noted that the U.S. has spent nearly $6 tril­lion on fight­ing wars since the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks, but said cut­ting mil­i­tary spend­ing was not the an­swer.

In­stead, the in­crease he is propos­ing would be off­set by cuts to un­spec­i­fied do­mes­tic pro­grams and to for­eign aid, which would in turn be made up for in part by de­mand­ing that other coun­tries pay more for se­cu­rity al­liances that have his­tor­i­cally been un­der­writ­ten by the U.S.

“This bud­get ex­pects the rest of the world to step up in some of the pro­grams that this coun­try has been so gen­er­ous in fund­ing in the past,” an of­fi­cial from the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get said, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the pres­i­dent’s spend­ing plans.

For­eign aid makes up about 1 per­cent of the bud­get.

“This bud­get speaks for it­self,” the of­fi­cial said. “I don’t think this bud­get has any­thing to do other than putting Amer­i­cans first.”

Trump also em­pha­sized a pri­or­ity on in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing.

“It’s not like we have a choice — our high­ways, our bridges are un­safe, our tun­nels,” the pres­i­dent told the gov­er­nors. He added, “We’re go­ing to do more with less and make the gov­ern­ment lean and ac­count­able to the peo­ple.”

Trump’s fi­nal ver­sion of the bud­get will ei­ther leave large deficits in­tact or add to them if he fol­lows through on his cam­paign promise for a gen­er­ous tax cut. His plan faces strong op­po­si­tion from Democrats, who pos­sess the power to block it.

The im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion from Repub­li­cans was mixed, with de­fense 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 said, “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.

White House Bud­get Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney said the in­crease in Pen­tagon spend­ing would bring the to­tal de­fense 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 de­fense than the next seven coun­tries com­bined, but mil­i­tary lead­ers have com­plained re­peat­edly that air­craft are ag­ing. Congress was told re­cently that the av­er­age age of Air Force air­craft is 27 years, and more than half of the ser­vice’s in­ven­tory would qual­ify for an­tique ve­hi­cle li­cense plates in Vir­ginia.

“It is a true ‘Amer­ica first’ bud­get,” Mul­vaney said, re­fer­ring to a com­mon Trump theme. “It will show the pres­i­dent is keep­ing his prom­ises and will do ex­actly what he said he was go­ing to do. It pri­or­i­tizes re­build­ing our mil­i­tary, in­clud­ing restor­ing our nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties, pro­tect­ing the na­tion and se­cur­ing the bor­der, en­forc­ing the laws cur­rently on the books, tak­ing care of vets and in­creas­ing school choice.”

But Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Charles Schumer of New York said, “It is clear from this bud­get blue­print that Pres­i­dent Trump fully in­tends to break his prom­ises to work­ing fam­i­lies by tak­ing a meat ax to pro­grams that ben­e­fit the mid­dle class.”

He added, “A cut this steep al­most cer­tainly means cuts to agen­cies that pro­tect con­sumers from Wall Street ex­cess and pro­tect clean air and wa­ter.”

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said deep cuts could have ma­jor ef­fects on pro­grams that keep the work­force com­pet­i­tive.

“A $54 bil­lion cut will do far-reach­ing and long-last­ing dam­age to our abil­ity to meet the needs of the Amer­i­can peo­ple and win the jobs of the fu­ture,” Pelosi said in a state­ment. “The Pres­i­dent is sur­ren­der­ing Amer­ica’s lead­er­ship in in­no­va­tion, ed­u­ca­tion,

sci­ence and clean en­ergy.”

Most fed­eral agen­cies will see sub­stan­tial re­duc­tions in their bud­gets, said an­other Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity on a call with re­porters to dis­cuss the bud­get pro­posal.

One of the State Depart­ment’s deputy sec­re­tary po­si­tions, in charge of man­age­ment and re­sources, is ex­pected to be elim­i­nated and its staff re­as­signed, peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the plan said.

Trump and his aides also were re­view­ing whether to elim­i­nate some spe­cial en­voy po­si­tions — diplo­matic staff as­signed to key re­gions and is­sues, in­clud­ing cli­mate change, anti-Semitism and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties — the peo­ple said.

Mul­vaney said the plan wouldn’t add to the bud­get deficit, which is pro­jected to hit about $500 bil­lion next year, but it wouldn’t re­duce it, ei­ther. The ad­min­is­tra­tion again made clear that the gov­ern­ment’s largest ben­e­fit pro­grams, So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care, would be ex­empt from cuts when Trump’s full bud­get sub­mis­sion is re­leased in May.

McCain said Trump’s Pen­tagon plans would fall short by al­most $40 bil­lion and rep­re­sent just a small in­crease over for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s re­cent Pen­tagon wish list.

“With a world on fire, Amer­ica can­not se­cure peace through strength with just 3 per­cent more than Pres­i­dent Obama’s bud­get,” said McCain, chair­man of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

On Mon­day, ten­ta­tive pro­pos­als for the 2018 bud­get year that be­gins Oct. 1 were be­ing sent to fed­eral

agen­cies, which will have a chance to pro­pose changes.

Be­fore the new bud­get year, there’s an April 28 dead­line to fin­ish up spend­ing bills for the 2017 bud­get year, which is al­most half over, and any stum­ble or pro­tracted bat­tle could risk a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

Sep­a­rate ly Mon­day, House Repub­li­cans blocked an at­tempt by Democrats to force Trump to re­lease his tax re­turns to Congress.

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., said Mon­day that Congress has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to hold the ex­ec­u­tive branch “to the high­est stan­dard of trans­parency to en­sure the pub­lic in­ter­est is placed first.”

Pascrell and other Democrats said the tax re­turns also would help law­mak­ers and the pub­lic de­ter­mine whether Trump has any in­vest­ments in Rus­sia.

Trump has said he has no in­vest­ments in Rus­sia, and Democrats ac­knowl­edged they have no ev­i­dence other­wise. They said that is one rea­son they want to ob­tain ac­cess to Trump’s re­turns.

The Repub­li­can- con­trolled House on Mon­day ap­proved Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy’s mo­tion to post­pone in­def­i­nitely Pascrell’s pro­posal. The vote was 229 to 185.

The Se­nate, mean­while, con­firmed bil­lion­aire in­vestor Wil­bur Ross as commerce sec­re­tary.

AP/At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion/BOB ANDRES

Wendy Harper wears pa­tri­otic col­ors as back­ers of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump gather Mon­day at the Ge­or­gia Capi­tol in At­lanta for a “Spirit of Amer­ica” rally to show their sup­port for his agenda and push back against the wave of anti-Trump protests.

AP/MANUEL BALCE CENETA

Mick Mul­vaney, di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get, speaks to White House re­porters Mon­day about Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s spend­ing blue­print.

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