White House requests $4B for missile defense to counter North Korea
The White House is requesting another $4 billion for missile defense in the face of growing threats from North Korea.
“This request supports additional efforts to detect, defeat, and defend against any North Korean use of ballistic missiles against the United States, its deployed forces, allies or partners,” President Trump wrote in a letter to Congress on Monday.
The supplemental budget request sent to Congress Monday also asks for $1.2 billion more for the administration’s new Afghanistan strategy and almost $700 million to repair two Navy ships badly damaged in fatal collisions this summer.
It also reiterates the president’s desire for Congress to pass $1.6 billion in funding for a wall on the border with Mexico.
“Providing for the safety and security of the American people is my top priority,” Trump wrote in the letter. “That priority is reflected in both the enclosed [Department of Defense] Budget amendments and the border wall request, which provides the down payment on what [Customs and Border Protection] needs to secure the southwest border.”
Defense hawks in Congress have long sought more missile defense funding as North Korea advances it nuclear and missile capabilities.
The administration originally requested $9.9 billion for fiscal 2018 for missile defense, which defense hawks slammed as insufficient and a cut from its current funding level.
Trump himself promised “billions” more for missile defense in August.
“We’re going to be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars because of North Korea and other reasons having to do with the anti-missile [aspect],” Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.
The $4 billion request Monday, which comes as Trump is on an Asia trip dominated by worries about North Korea, would go toward construction of an additional Ground-Based Interceptor field at Fort Greely, Alaska, as well as initial funding to buy 20 new interceptors for the system.
The money would also pay for 16 Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptors, 50 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptors, missile detection radar upgrades, intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities, and long-range strike capabilities, among other areas.
The request would also provide about $1.2 billion for the administration’s new Afghanistan and South Asia strategy, which the request says would support the deployment of 3,500 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
“The additional resources would enable [the Department of Defense] to deploy an additional 3,500 troops, and includes funding for urgent needs and special operations forces capabilities,” Trump wrote.
Finally, the request asks for $674 million to repair the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain. Both ships were badly damaged in separate collisions this summer that left 17 sailors dead.
In a statement, Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said he hopes Congress will “act expeditiously” on the request.
“The president’s request demonstrates that missile defense and military readiness remain a high priority for the president and our military and diplomatic leaders,” he said. “Providing additional funding for missile defense programs would reinforce the United States’ commitment to defend itself and its allies.”
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, said in a joint statement that they welcome the request. Much of it has already been included in the annual defense policy bill, they added, but the request will help negotiators as they wrap up the bill.
“We welcome the president’s amendment to his initial defense budget request and look forward to giving it the serious consideration it deserves,” they said. “In fact, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have already authorized many of these missile defense programs in our respective defense bills.
“The timely submission of this budget amendment means that the [National Defense Authorization Act] conferees will be able to consider this request in time to incorporate the additional funding into the final agreement.”
Updated at 5:25 p.m.
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