Trump budget to boost defense spending by $54B

The Trump administration is proposing a budget it says will increase defense spending by $54 billion and cut non-defense spending by the same amount.

The White House is sending a topline budget proposal reflecting those figures to federal agencies on Monday afternoon, according to an Office of Management and Budget official.

The official provided no specific details during a call with reporters about the rest of the budget, including the baseline figure being used for the cuts or over what period they would be made.

{mosads}“Most federal agencies will see a reduction as a result,” the official said, with cuts falling most heavily on “lower priority” programs as well as foreign aid.

The administration “expects the rest of the world to step up in some of the programs this country has been so generous in funding in the past,” the official said when asked about slashing foreign aid. 

When asked where the extra $54 billion will be spent, the official said “predominantly it will go to the Pentagon,” but declined to name specific offices.

The White House would not permit the official to be named, even though the president last Friday personally condemned the use of anonymous sources.

Trump’s topline budget, which is expected to be released in mid-March, would fundamentally alter the set of spending rules, known as the sequester, brokered in a 2013 deal between President Obama and Congress.

That agreement set a cap on discretionary spending across the federal government, which affected defense and non-defense spending equally. 

Under the sequester, defense and non-defense spending is supposed to grow and shrink at the same time. 

But Trump said he wants to forge ahead with “a historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America,” one of his chief campaign promises. 

“This budget will be a public safety and national security budget, very much based on those two, plenty of other things, but very strong,” Trump said during a meeting Monday morning with governors. 

The announcement came just over 24 hours before Trump will address a joint session of Congress for the first time as president.

His budget could be used by the Republican Congress as a guidepost for setting spending levels for fiscal year 2018.

The federal government is running on a continuing resolution that expires at the end of April. It is based on last year’s spending levels agreed upon by Obama and Congress. 

The $54 billion bump in defense spending is a 10-percent increase from 2016 levels, something that national security hawks, such as Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), have long desired.  

But Trump’s budget could be difficult to pass in Congress, since Democrats would oppose cutting domestic spending while increasing defense spending. 

Across-the-board cuts to domestic programs might prove unpopular on both sides of the aisle, since they could affect programs and federal offices in members’ home states regardless of party. 

Some GOP lawmakers are taking a wait-and-see approach. 

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said they wanted to see more details and wouldn’t dismiss the spending increase out of hand.

“I certainly support the president’s desire to increase funding for our national security and believe that we have critical needs that have been long ignored,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a Trump supporter and chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told The Hill.

“I would have to review the overall budget to see if $54 billion is justified.”

—Updated at 11:17 a.m. Scott Wong and Sylvan Lane contributed. 

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