McCain proposes $640B defense budget for 2018

McCain proposes $640B defense budget for 2018
© Greg Nash

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainFrustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response Coats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Ariz.) is proposing a $640 billion base defense budget for the next fiscal year, $54 billion above what had been projected by the Obama administration.

“President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPelosi: Trump insisted he won popular vote in our first meeting NYT's David Brooks: Trump has not fulfilled promise of new conservatism Should government 'outsource' censorship to Facebook and Twitter? MORE has pledged to ‘fully eliminate the defense sequester’ and ‘submit a new budget to rebuild our military.’ This cannot happen soon enough,” McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wrote in a 33-page white paper released over the holiday weekend.

“The damage that has been done to our military over the past eight years will not be reversed in one year. Just stemming the bleeding caused by recent budget cuts will take most of the next five years, to say nothing of the sustained increases in funding required thereafter.”

McCain’s plan would pay for more troops for the Army and Marine Corps, more ships for the Navy and more planes for the Air Force. But it would require caps on defense spending to be overturned, an action that has eluded Congress since such caps were enacted in 2011 and that fiscal conservatives are expected to continue pushing against.

Combined with a projected $60 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, McCain’s plan would bring next year’s defense budget to a total of $700 billion.

And over five years, the plan would add $430 billion more than current projections, bringing the defense budget to $800 billion in fiscal 2022.

For the Navy, McCain calls the plans to increase the fleet to 355 ships from 274 by 2022 “unrealistic.” But, he said, the Navy could by 59 ships in that timeframe; including five fast attack submarines, five fleet oilers, three destroyers, two amphibious ships, two undersea surveillance ships and one aircraft carrier.

McCain said the Marines could add 3,000 troops a year to reach 200,000 by 2022, “with the possibility of exceeding that if operational requirements demand it.”

The Marines should also buy 20 more F-35 fighter jets, while the Air Force should buy 73 more, he said.

But the Air Force’s goal of ultimately buying 1,763 F-35s “is unrealistic and requires reevaluation, and likely a reduction, of the ultimate size of the F-35 fleet,” McCain added said.

The Army, meanwhile, should conduct a study to determine the optimal size and structure of the force, he said. But, he said, adding 8,000 soldiers a year through 2022 is a “realistic objective.”

McCain acknowledged the high price tag of his proposal, but said it’s necessary to rebuild the military.

“The budget increase advocated for in this paper is a lot of money, but we must be clear about the cost of doing nothing: Our military’s ability to deter conflict will continue to weaken,” he wrote. “And should we find ourselves in conflict, our nation will be forced to send young Americans into battle without sufficient training or equipment to fight a war that will take longer, be larger, cost more, and ultimately claim more American lives than it otherwise would have.”