WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump is seeking what he called a “historic” increase in military spending of more than nine per cent, a huge rise even as the United States has wound down major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and remains the world's strongest military power.
Trump will seek to boost Pentagon spending in the next fiscal year by $54 billion in his first budget proposal and slash the same amount from non-defence spending, including a large reduction in foreign aid, a White House budget official said on Monday.
The president does not have the final say on federal spending. His plan to ramp up military spending is part of a budget proposal to Congress, which, while it is controlled by his fellow Republicans, will not necessarily follow his plans.
“This budget will be a public safety and national security budget,” Trump told state governors at the White House.
“It will include an historic increase in defence spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it,” he said.
Officials familiar with Trump's proposal said the defence budget increase would be financed partly by cuts to the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other non-defence programmes.
Such a hike would be unusual given that the United States is not engaged in a major war, although its special forces and Air Force are active against the militant Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
An official familiar with the proposal said Trump's request for the Pentagon included more money for shipbuilding, military aircraft and establishing “a more robust presence in key international waterways and choke points” such as the Strait of Hormuz and South China Sea.
That could put the United States at odds with Iran and China.
The United States already has the world's most powerful fighting force and it spends far more than any other country on defence.
Defence spending in the most recent fiscal year was $584 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, so Trump's planned $54 billion increase would be a rise of 9.2 per cent. The next fiscal year starts in October.
In a speech to conservative activists on Friday, Trump promised “one of the greatest military buildups in American history.” The White House is sending Trump's budget proposal to federal departments this week as he gears up for budget negotiations with lawmakers that often take months to play out.
A second official said the State Department's budget could be cut by as much as 30 per cent, which would force a major restructuring of the department and elimination of programmes.
The United States spends about $50 billion annually on the State Department and foreign assistance. More than 120 retired US generals and admirals urged Congress on Monday to fully fund US diplomacy and foreign aid, saying that “elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defence are critical to keeping America safe.”
Trump also said he would talk about his plans for infrastructure spending in a speech to Congress on Tuesday. “We're going to start spending on infrastructure big,” he said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking on Fox News on Sunday, said Trump's budget would not seek cuts in federal social programmes such as Social Security and Medicare.