Trump's Pentagon Budget Delays Big Defense Buildup He PromisedBy
Budget maintains Obama plans for F-35, Super Hornet, ships
Focus on readiness with more Army troops, Tomahawk missiles
President Donald Trump’s first full-year defense budget would delay big increases in multibillion-dollar weapons systems while putting more money into troop readiness and precision munitions, such as 100 additional Tomahawk cruise missiles from Raytheon Co.
The budget proposed Tuesday for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 would provide $574.5 billion for the Pentagon, a 10 percent increase from the last full-year budget in fiscal 2016 and about 9.5 percent more than the budget Congress approved for the current fiscal year.
“That’s a pretty healthy increase,” Acting Comptroller John Roth said in an interview. But even if Congress accepts Trump’s budget totals -- and that’s far from assured -- he acknowledged it “doesn’t change significantly” the budget that was projected for the coming year by former President Barack Obama. “There are no new programs, no significant new initiatives,” Roth said.
About $10.8 billion is requested for 70 F-35s built by Lockheed Martin Corp., $1.3 billion for 14 F/A-18 Super Hornet jets made by Boeing Co. and $3.1 billion for 15 additional KC-46 aerial refueling tankers from Boeing-- the same quantities projected by Obama.
Similarly, Trump’s vow to build a 350-ship Navy instead of the 305 planned under Obama will wait at least a year. The fiscal 2018 request is for eight vessels, including $1.2 billion for one Littoral Combat Ship, two Virginia-class submarines for $5.5 billion and two DDG-51 Flight III destroyers for $4 billion -- all as planned under Obama.
The Navy said this year that it would need to request 12 new vessels in fiscal 2018 to start the acceleration. Today, the Navy has 275 ships that can be deployed.
Readiness ‘Job One’
“Job One was the readiness shortfall,” Roth said, so “the increases went into training, went into maintenance of equipment and facilities, went into exercises, basic training and those kinds of things -- that’s what gets you to your readiness,” he said, with emphasis on operations and maintenance, such as depot maintenance funds sought by the Navy.
Including funding for defense-related spending by the Energy and Justice departments, Trump’s proposed national security budget is $603 billion, plus an additional $65 billion for the war-fighting fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account.
Roth said the fiscal 2018 request is the middle step of a three-stage buildup that began with a $30 billion, fiscal 2017 budget amendment Congress cut by half. “Eight ships, we would argue, is not a bad deal,” he said.
The biggest exception from Obama’s approach: Increased funding for the Army to add 26,000 active-duty troops to keep force levels at 476,000, as directed by Congress this year, instead of dropping to 450,000 as had been planned. The Army budget request is $137.1 billion, or about $5 billion more than planned last year.
The budget would provide $115 billion for weapons procurement, roughly the amount planned by the Obama administration. It calls for about $83 billion for research, about $6 billion, or 8 percent, more than planned. An additional $10.2 billion is included for procurement in the $65 billion request for war funding, which isn’t covered by budget caps.
Still, Trump’s proposal would exceed the military spending caps under the 2011 Budget Control Act by $52 billion, and Democrats in Congress will resist his plan to do that while cutting domestic programs rather than giving them a comparable increase.
While Trump called in a memo in January for a “great rebuilding of the armed services” and promised a budget “Congress is going to be very happy to see,” members of the congressional Armed Services committees already have said he isn’t proposing enough to rebuild the military.
Trump’s defense budget request “is inadequate to the challenges we face, illegal under current law, and part of an overall budget proposal that is dead on arrival in Congress,” Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain of Arizona said in an emailed statement. “This funding level represents a mere 3 percent increase over President Obama’s budget projection for the coming fiscal year.”
Trump may propose more for fiscal 2019, but much of this first defense budget “is taken up by ‘must-pay’ bills,” said Mark Cancian, a defense budget specialist and former Office of Management and Budget analyst who’s now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The procurement increases in the budget “will be helpful, but not nearly what is needed to recapitalize the force or meet the expectations the administration has set,” Cancian said.
The Army and Marine Corps will maintain their planned purchases of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles made by Oshkosh Corp. and Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles from BAE Systems Plc -- 2,777 and 107 respectively funded through the base and war budgets.
The Army also is requesting $1.4 billion for 63 Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters, a mix of 28 upgraded older models and 15 new ones -- a slight increase over the planned 58 projected under Obama for fiscal 2018.
Air Force One
The budget requests $434 million for continued research and development of the Boeing-managed program to replace the aging Air Force One planes that carry the president. That’s about $191 million less than the Air Force planned to spend. The project has drawn Trump’s attention -- and tweets from the president complaining that it’s costing too much.
The reduction “reflects current acquisition strategy and a new requirements baseline” agreed to with the White House, Air Force budget deputy Carolyn Gleason told reporters Tuesday. The reduction was “informed by Boeing’s risk-reduction activities, basically a change in a cost estimate,” Gleason said.
The White House also agreed in March to a set of minimum requirements the aircraft must meet, according to the budget documents.
The Air Force also would get increased funding for Northrop Grumman Corp.’s B-21 bomber program to $2 billion, up from $1.3 billion requested for this fiscal year.
The Pentagon’s five-year plan for fiscal 2019 through 2023 will start to implement Trump’s broader buildup, buttressed by a new National Defense Strategy that should be completed by August, Roth said. “That’s a conversation that’s yet to be had between us, the White House and OMB,” or Office of Management and Budget, he said.
For now, five-year estimates in the budget proposal are just placeholders, Roth said. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “hasn’t spent one moment looking at fiscal 2019 and beyond,” Roth said.
Increased purchasing of munitions is underscored by the request for $381 million in the base and warfighting budgets for 100 more Tomahawk missiles after the Obama administration stopped production. The Navy’s Tomahawk cruise missile is used in land-attack operations from ships and submarines. In Trump’s first major military operation, 59 Tomahawks were fired in April against a Syrian airfield said to have been used to launch a chemical attack against a city.
Also included in the request:
- $889 million for 6,000 Lockheed Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System munitions
- $874 million for 34,529 Boeing JDAM GPS-guided bomb tail kits
- $714 million for 7,664 Lockheed Hellfire missiles
- $504.1 million in base and war funding for 7,312 Boeing and Raytheon Small Diameter Bombs
- $451 million for continued research of the new nuclear Long-Range Stand-off Missile for launch off B-52, B-2 and B-21 bombers
- $432 million to buy 40 of Lockheed’s new Offensive Anti-Ship Weapons for launch off B-1B bombers and F/A-18E/F fighters
- Missile Defense Agency research spending of $5.87 billion, up from $5.79 billion approved this year
The war funding request of $65 billion includes $46 billion to support Afghanistan operations with a U.S. force level of 8,448 personnel. It doesn’t provide for additional U.S. troops, pending a White House decision on a request from the military to add more troops, Roth said.
In addition, $13 billion is requested for operations in Iraq and Syria and $4.8 billion is sought for the European Reassurance Initiative intended to bolster deterrence against Russia.