After the Pentagon spent the past several months bracing for belt-tightening in 2019, the Trump administration has changed course, reportedly telling the Pentagon brass they’ll ask for an extra $35 billion in spending in the new budget.
The plan would continue a defense spending boom under President Donald Trump, who pledged on the campaign trail to make the U.S. military the most powerful force on the globe.
The budget news is seen as a Christmas miracle at the Pentagon, where service chiefs have been penning long wish lists for new gear.
The Army is hoping for a new fleet of combat vehicles that would replace its Cold War workhorses, the M-1 tank and Bradley fighting vehicle.
The Marines have been longing for new drones, and the Navy is pushing for 355 ships in its fleet. The Air Force could use the cash to jump-start programs in development, including its new B-21 Raider bomber and a planned intercontinental ballistic missile.
The money could also be used to carve out the president’s new Space Force.
U.S. defense spending in 2018 brought the Pentagon budget back to levels unseen since the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The new defense budget would eclipse defense spending from the height of the Cold War. President Ronald Reagan’s 1988 Pentagon budget was $323 billion. That’s the equivalent of $690 billion today — $60 billion less than the Trump plan.
Any way you slice it, $750 billion is an incredible amount of money. With that budget, the Pentagon would have an allowance of more than $2 billion a day. That means the brass is spending $1.4 million per minute, or more than $23,000 per second, on defense.
It is about 10 times the amount allocated for the Department of Transportation, 11 times the budget of the Department of Education and 15 times the budget for the Department of Homeland Security.
But that big budget faces an uncertain future.
Congress has been generous in recent years, boosting Pentagon spending. But those increases came thanks to a temporary pause of mandatory budget cuts that were passed during the Obama administration. Those “sequestration” cuts would carve an estimated $50 billion from Pentagon spending for the budget year that starts in October, unless lawmakers move to repeal them.
And with the Democrats picking up the House majority and Republicans ruling the Senate, repealing the cuts would require bipartisan harmony that seems unlikely these days.
Washington Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, who is poised to lead the House Armed Services Committee has already voiced concern that the Defense Department budget is bloated with waste.
“If we want to reduce defense waste, have greater transparency over defense dollars, and eliminate mismanagement, it is essential that we get the Defense Department to a position where Congress, taxpayers, and DOD itself can track and account for the money that is being used,” Smith said in an email.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx