Pen­tagon told to cut spend­ing 4.5% for 2020

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - News - BY DAN LAMOTHE

Deputy De­fense Sec­re­tary Patrick Shana­han said Fri­day that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has in­structed the Pen­tagon to pre­pare a $700 bil­lion bud­get for 2020 – 4.5 per­cent less than the $733 bil­lion that the De­fense Depart­ment had planned.

The de­ci­sion means that the De­fense Depart­ment is not ex­empt from Trump’s call for fed­eral de­part­ments to slash spend­ing af­ter a new Trea­sury Depart­ment re­port that showed a 17 per­cent rise in the na­tional deficit. Trump said last week that the Pen­tagon bud­get would “prob­a­bly be $700 bil­lion,” but con­sid­er­ing his past stated in­ter­est in sus­tain­ing U.S. “peace through strength,” some an­a­lysts ques­tioned whether it ul­ti­mately would ap­ply to the De­fense Depart­ment.

But Shana­han, speak­ing Fri­day to the Mil­i­tary Re­porters and Ed­i­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, said that Mick Mul­vaney, di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get, called Shana­han and did in­deed di­rect the Pen­tagon to build a $700 bil­lion bud­get.

“Here’s the as­sign­ment,” Shana­han said Mul­vaney told him. “Let’s get to work on it.’’

The Pen­tagon is now pre­par­ing both a $700 bil­lion and $733 bil­lion bud­get, Shana­han said. The ef­fort sets up a sce­nario where Congress could ex­am­ine both, and po­ten­tially boost De­fense Depart­ment spend­ing over Trump’s ini­tial pro­posal.

Trump’s call to cut spend­ing comes as de­fense of­fi­cials say they are be­gin­ning to re­build and fix the mil­i­tary af­ter years of heavy use in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria and con­gres­sion­ally man­dated bud­get cuts known as se­ques­tra­tion. It also comes af­ter Shana­han had said that the Pen­tagon’s 2020 bud­get pro­posal would be a “mas­ter­piece” that al­lowed De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis to be­gin im­ple­ment­ing ma­jor changes that are a part of his na­tional de­fense strat­egy, which is fo­cused most heav­ily on re­ori­ent­ing the mil­i­tary to pre­pare for “near-peer” threats posed by China and Rus­sia.

Congress in Au­gust fi­nal­ized a $716 bil­lion bud­get for 2019, and Mat­tis touted it as a show of the “deep and abid­ing bi­par­ti­san sup­port our mil­i­tary en­joys.” It au­tho­rized the Pen­tagon to in­crease its over­all num­ber of troops by 15,600 and boosted ser­vice mem­ber pay by 2.6 per­cent, the largest raise in nine years. It marked an $82 bil­lion in­crease - some­thing Mat­tis called “what we need to bring us back to a po­si­tion of pri­macy.”

Mat­tis played a key role in se­cur­ing $716 bil­lion for the Pen­tagon in 2019. He iden­ti­fied the con­gres­sion­ally man­dated cuts as a threat in Jan­uary.

“As hard as the last 16 years have been, no en­emy in the field has done more to harm the readi­ness of the U.S. mil­i­tary than the com­bined im­pact of the Bud­get Con­trol Act, de­fense spend­ing cuts and op­er­at­ing in nine of the last 10 years un­der con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tions,” Mat­tis said.

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