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A Bigger Pentagon Budget

Monday January 29th, 2018   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 6:48am PST   •  

55015762 - financing war concept, money with tank shadow If President Trump gets his way, the amount of U.S. defense spending will increase by nearly 13% above their current level in 2019. Bloomberg Quint‘s Eric Watson and Tony Capaccio report on the proposed surge in U.S. defense spending.

President Donald Trump will propose $716 billion in defense spending in his fiscal 2019 budget request, a 7.2 percent from his request for this year that backs the Pentagon’s push for a major buildup, a U.S. official said.

The funding would include $597 billion for the Defense Department’s base budget, with the rest going for its war-fighting account and to other government programs such as the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons program, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the release of Trump’s second proposed budget next month.

The amount is a sharp increase from the $668 billion total Trump proposed last year for fiscal 2018 and also offered as a placeholder for fiscal 2019. Currently, the Pentagon is operating under stopgap funding at fiscal 2017 levels, which totaled $634 billion. The plan, reported earlier Friday by the Washington Post, represents a victory of defense hawks over those trying to constrain deficit spending.

From a deficit spending perspective, the proposed $82 billion increase in defense spending over their current level, which was set in 2017, could be twice as bad because congressional Democrats have been demanding a dollar for dollar increase in non-defense spending programs in the negotiations to increase the national debt ceiling. David Sherfinski of the Washington Times has that story:

Republicans and Democrats are supposedly close to a deal that would lift universally derided spending caps, but the negotiations have been hamstrung by the fact that the two sides can’t even agree on what constitutes “parity” between defense and non-defense funding.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t be bound by past “arbitrary” agreements that raised the caps equally for defense and non-defense discretionary spending, as he and other Republicans say a massive new military funding boost is needed to play catch-up after years of neglect.

Democrats, though, are again insisting on a dollar-for-dollar increase, saying certain domestic programs have taken under-the-radar hits from the caps and that defense hawks have consistently managed to sneak in extra money through a special war fund that’s exempt from the limits.

If you’re scratching your head wondering why non-defense spending should be in any way linked to defense spending increases, you’re not alone. Why, for example, would the need to address newly developing geopolitical crises elsewhere in the world require any new non-defense spending within the United States, when the two types of spending are almost completely independent of one another? But, that’s Washington D.C. thinking for you.

Better thinking would have members of the U.S. Congress working to close deals to reform the spending programs that have already put the U.S. government’s fiscal path onto an unsustainable trajectory, well before any new spending is added to worsen the nation’s fiscal situation. Alas, that concept seems to elude the politicians elected to the U.S. Congress, who would appear to have other priorities.

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January 2018