Week ahead: Trump defense budget under scrutiny


President Trump plans to send his fiscal 2018 budget request to Congress on Tuesday, dropping the document on lawmakers while traveling Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe on his first foreign trip.

The White House will ask for $603 billion in defense spending, an increase of $17 billion in the Pentagon’s base budget over the Obama administration’s FY-18 planned spending levels. About half of that increase will go towards congressionally mandated personnel costs and force structure requirements, included in the National Defense Authorization Act.

The Trump administration also wants 56,000 additional troops – half of that going to the Army – and $19 billion for equipment such as 70 F-35 and 14 F/A-18 fighter jets, The New York Times reported Thursday.

{mosads}Money is also requested for training current troops.

In addition, Trump’s request includes $2.6 billion to build a wall along the border with Mexico, a polarizing promise made during the presidential race.

Officials told the Times $1.6 billion of that money would go toward materials to build the wall and $1 billion to plan for the rest of the wall and other security measures.

Trump’s defense budget is far below the $640 billion defense hawks are pushing for. House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) have both stressed that funds are needed to keep the president’s lofty defense promises on the campaign trail and turn back years of declining military readiness.

But House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) said Thursday that she is skeptical lawmakers can reach the $640 billion defense funding goal over President Trump’s $603 billion budget proposal.

A $640 billion defense budget would be difficult to obtain due to mandatory spending caps on defense spending under the 2011 Budget Control Act. The trade offs needed to increase the BCA caps would be “a high bar, very difficult,” she said.

“If all things were equal I’d agree with their number, but I don’t see how you get there,” Granger said at a Bloomberg Government event.

But Thornberry told reporters Friday that $640 billion is the number “that we believe is required to begin to repair the damage that’s been done on readiness and to … keep the president’s promises.”

“My goal is to get us away from this throwing numbers around business, make those numbers real and concrete and I hope that that’s the way OMB [Office of Management and Budget] looks at it … because these numbers have real world consequences.”

Lawmakers will have a chance to digest the White House request, and budget committees will craft their own budget proposals in June.

The bill is a more robust version of the “skinny budget” Trump released in March, which promised to rebuild the Army, increase the total number of ships in the Navy fleet, improve readiness in the Air Force and add more F-35s.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Thornberry said.

There are a number of Congressional hearings centered around the FY-18 defense budget this week.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hear about “Worldwide Threats” from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50.

Former CIA director John Brennan will testify before the House Intelligence Committee for its investigation into Russian election interference at 10 a.m. Tuesday at House Visitors Center room 210.

A Senate Armed Services subcommittee will have a closed-door briefing on Navy readiness at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Another Senate Armed Services subcommittee will have a hearing on the military branches’ cyber posture at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Russell Senate Office Building, room 222.

Adm. Mike Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, will testify before a House Armed Services Committee panel on his 2018 budget request at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118.

A Senate Armed Services subpanel will hear industry perspectives on achieving a 355-ship Navy at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Russell 232A.

The chiefs of the National Guard and each military branch’s reserves will testify before the House Appropriations defense subcommittee on their 2018 budget requests at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Capitol, House room 140.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin will testify before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on the department’s 2018 budget request at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Cannon House Office Building, room 334.

Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Marines Commandant Gen. Robert Neller will testify before the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee on their fiscal 2018 budget request at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Dirksen 192.

Three Navy officials will testify before a House Armed Services subcommittee on their 2018 budget request at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Rayburn 2212.

A House Foreign Affairs Committee subpanel will hear from outside experts on Iran at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Rayburn 2172.

A Senate Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Department of Energy’s atomic energy defense programs at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at Dirksen G-50.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will mark up its Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at Russell 418.

A House Armed Services subpanel will hold a hearing on the ground force modernization budget request at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Three Air Force officials will testify before a House Armed Services subcommittee on its 2018 budget request at 8 a.m. Thursday.

Another House Armed Services subcommittee will hear from Department of Energy and Pentagon officials on the nuclear forces and atomic energy activities 2018 budget at 9 a.m. Thursday at Rayburn 2118.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and acting Army Secretary Robert Speer will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Dirksen G-50.

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hear from outside experts on religious freedom and human rights in Vietnam at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Rayburn 2172.

A Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee will have a hearing on the U.N. Human Rights Council at 2 p.m. Thursday at Dirksen 419.


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