President Donald Trump's budget plan sets defense spending at about $18 billion more than had been planned for this year by former President Barack Obama, but experts say the difference will do little to help him fulfill his campaign trail pledges.
Trump included a 350-ship Navy, dozens of new fighter planes for the Air Force, and a 540,000 active duty Army force, but that kind of spending requires an $80 billion to $90 billion boost a year, The Hill reported on Monday.
The fiscal 2018 budget plan released last week calls for $603 billion in the base budget for defense and national security. The figures are $54 billion over the ceiling set in the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The budget's funds would keep the Army at 476,000 active duty soldiers and plans for eight new ships, which was what Obama forecast. It does not provide for new equipment, retired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr of the Heritage Foundation noted to The Hill.
"It was mildly surprising that the Defense Department didn’t buy any new equipment," Spoehr said. "They chose to put it all in operations and personnel and maintenance."
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, meanwhile, said the budget was "dead on arrival" after it was released, and said $640 billion was needed for fiscal year 2018.
House Armed Services Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., also complained Trump had not "given us a solid document on which one can plan for the national defense."
Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said it’s likely Trump does not know a $54 billion increase is not sufficient, and a separate consultant told The Hill Trump probably "doesn't know any better."
“He thinks he’s providing a big defense increase when he’s not. The people in his inner circle don’t understand the mechanics and the numbers, and [Office of Management and Budget Director] Mick Mulvaney is totally pulling the wool over his eyes," the source said.
Meanwhile, Spoehr said there were likely people around Trump who were "persuasive that they thought it was maybe at least as important to balance the budget [as] it was to build up defense," and the president didn't get "much influence" when setting the defense number.
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