House Armed Services chairman: Administration 'should do more' on defense spending

House Armed Services chairman: Administration 'should do more' on defense spending
© C-SPAN

The Republican leader of the House Armed Services Committee is knocking the Trump administration’s plans to increase defense spending as not going far enough.

“Over the course of the Obama administration, our military funding was cut 20 percent while the world grew more dangerous," Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a statement. "While we cannot repair all of the damage done by those cuts in a single year, we can and should do more than this level of funding will allow. The administration will have to make clear which problems facing our military they are choosing not to fix.”

The Office of Management and Budget said Monday the administration will propose increasing fiscal 2018 defense spending by $54 billion and cut nondefense spending by the same amount.

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No other details were provided, including what baseline the administration is using and where specifically the money will go beyond saying “predominately it will go to the Pentagon.”

A House Armed Services staffer said the committee has confirmed with the administration that the baseline is the Budget Control Act cap, which for fiscal 2018 is $549 billion for defense.

That would put the total base budget for defense at $603 billion.

That falls below the $640 billion that Thornberry and his Senate counterpart, Sen. John McCainJohn McCainSenate healthcare bill appears headed for failure Trump backers eye GOP primary challenges for Flake, Heller Manchin bashes GOP candidate for pushing McCain to resign MORE (R-Ariz.), have advocated for.

Still, the Trump administration proposal is well above the $586 billion projected by the Obama administration for fiscal 2018.

In his statement, Thornberry said that increasing the defense budget should not be contingent on cuts to other agencies.

“We cannot make repairing and rebuilding our military conditional on fixing our budget problems or on cutting other spending,” he said. “We owe it to the men and women who serve and to the American people to protect our nation's security under all circumstances."

Both the $640 billion proposed by Thornberry and McCain and the $603 billion proposed by the administration would blow past the projected cap in defense spending set by the Budget Control Act, which also requires defense and nondefense spending to rise or fall with each other.

Republicans and the Trump administration have called for ending the caps on defense spending, but Democrats are likely to hold firm in their demand for parity between defense and nondefense spending.

With Republicans holding just 52 seats in the Senate, they’ll need some Senate Democrats to get on board to meet the 60-vote threshold.

The Trump administration also needs to convince fiscal conservatives who don’t want to see any increase in the deficit, making the cuts to other agencies proposed by Trump a key part of his plan.