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Top Dem: Trump troop increase claims 'a ruse'

Top Dem: Trump troop increase claims 'a ruse'
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee is decrying Trump administration claims that its budget proposal would add 56,000 troops to the military, calling it a “ruse.”

“In keeping with President Trump’s habit of exaggeration, he has been telling Congress and journalists that his budget increases the size of the military by 56,000 service members,” Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Pentagon watchdog to probe extremism in US military | FBI chief warns of 'online chatter' ahead of inauguration | House conservative bloc opposes Austin waiver Conservative caucus opposes waiver for Biden's Pentagon pick 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack MORE (D-Wash.) said in a statement Monday.

“This is a ruse, because it doesn’t take into account the 24,000 active duty and 13,000 reservists that Congress added in last year’s enacted” National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

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Trump’s 2018 budget proposal would add 56,400 troops above what former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFor Joe Biden, an experienced foreign policy team 'Nationalize' Facebook and Twitter as public goods Millennials and the great reckoning on race MORE had planned for fiscal 2018.

But Congress halted Obama’s planned drawdown with last year’s annual defense policy.

The NDAA passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama in December authorized a military of 2,121,858 troops for fiscal 2017.

Compared to the NDAA, Trump’s 2,129,900-troop military for fiscal 2018 would be an an increase of 8,042 troops.

Vice President Pence touted the 56,000 number during a commencement address at the Naval Academy last week.

The Pentagon, too, said the budget would increase end strength by 56,000, though it acknowledged that was due at least in part to the NDAA.

“What this budget does is pick up and sustains essentially increase in end strength over 56,000 from what the '18 column in the [fiscal year] '17 budget was,” John Roth, acting Pentagon comptroller, said during last week’s budget briefing. “To some extent, particularly the Army end strength increase, was inherent in the FY17 Authorization Act. We pick up and continue to fund that.”

In his Monday statement, Smith called the 8,000 figure the “real number” for the increase.

“This trend toward the use of misleading numbers in defense accounting is not a good thing,” Smith said.

Outside of Smith, defense hawks have also expressed disappointment in Trump’s $603 billion base defense budget proposal, saying it does not deliver the massive buildup he’s promised.

For example, the budget would keep the Army at the 476,000 soldiers authorized by the 2017 NDAA.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe best way to handle veterans, active-duty military that participated in Capitol riot Cindy McCain on possible GOP censure: 'I think I'm going to make T-shirts' Arizona state GOP moves to censure Cindy McCain, Jeff Flake MORE (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, slammed the lack of additional soldiers at a hearing last week.

“The president’s budget request is supposed to be focused on restoring readiness. The buildup, the administration says, will have to wait a couple of years,” he said.

“That ignores what Army leaders have testified to this committee, which is that inadequate end strength is forcing the Army to consume readiness as fast as it produces it. In other words, the Army will never truly restore readiness until it begins to grow. Yet the president has submitted a fiscal year 2018 budget request that calls for zero additional soldiers.”