President Donald Trump has backtracked on his proposal to shrink military spending, instead agreeing to Defence Secretary Jim Mattis’ request for a $750 billion budget for the upcoming 2019 fiscal year.
Last week, Mr Trump tweeted that a $716 billion Defence Department budget is “crazy.”
"I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race," Mr Trump tweeted earlier this month. "The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!"
The following day, Mr Mattis, Texas Representative Mac Thornberry and Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe—both Republicans and chairs of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, respectively—met with Mr Trump to discuss the need and justifications for an increase to military spending.
The three Republicans all oppose the White House’s initial budget plan for $700 billion, which were part of the Trump administration’s plan to cut five per cent of budget spending on all federal agencies. The proposed budget cut would have reduced the $716 billion allocated funding in 2019 to $700 billion in 2020, a stark contrast to the Pentagon’s proffered $733 billion budget for 2020.
Following the meeting, Mr Trump reversed his positions supporting Defence budget cuts and agreed to the $750 billion budget request. The new proposed budget is about a $20 billion increase from the $733 billion budget proposal Pentagon officials initially proposed.
"The President fully supports the National Defence Strategy and continuing to rebuild the military," a Defence Department official said. "With the help of Sen Inhofe and Chairman Thornberry, President Trump agreed to $750 billion topline."
The new budget number seems to please defence hawks who argue for military spending to be increased by 3 to 5 per cent annually. The $750 defence budget will include funding for the military, as well as, the Department of Energy’s units working on nuclear weaponry.
"The Department is committed to ensuring our military remains the most lethal force in the world. We are working with OMB (Office of Management and Budget) to determine the department's topline number," Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, a Defence Department spokesman, told CNN.
Defence officials have argued that any budget plan under $733 billion would increase the risk to national security.
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