Pentagon's No. 2 confirms plans for defense budget cuts

Pentagon's No. 2 confirms plans for defense budget cuts
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The Trump administration is planning cuts to next year’s defense budget, the Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian confirmed Friday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters that the administration has requested the Pentagon plan for a national defense budget of $700 billion for fiscal 2020, down from $716 billion this fiscal year.

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“Imagine we’ve been going through this very disciplined process for the whole year to build a budget that’s $733 billion, and then last week, we were directed, build us a $700 billion budget,” Shanahan said at the Military Reporters and Editors Associations conference.

The national defense budget encompasses both Pentagon and non-Pentagon defense items such as the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons programs.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE first floated a budget cut last week, saying he is asking every Cabinet head for a 5 percent cut next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, 2019.

At the time it was unclear what that would mean for defense. Asked about the Pentagon, Trump said last week that the budget “will probably be $700 billion.” That would be an increase from $686.1 billion if he was referring solely to the Pentagon budget, or a 2.2 percent decrease if he was referring to the entire national defense budget.

Because the Pentagon was already finalizing a budget in line with a $733 billion national defense budget when the administration asked for the cut, the department’s comptroller will present parallel budget documents, Shanahan said.

The two proposals will allow Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOnly Donald Trump has a policy for Afghanistan New Pentagon report blames Trump troop withdrawal for ISIS surge in Iraq and Syria Mattis returns to board of General Dynamics MORE to see the “trade offs,” Shanahan said.

The defense budget has enjoyed two years of significant hikes under the Trump administration in order to address what officials have called an urgent readiness crisis.

While defense hawks on Capitol Hill have acknowledged continued budget hikes could be a heavy political lift depending on the results of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, they have said the budget needs to remain steady to maintain progress on addressing readiness issues.

Congress ultimately decides funding levels.

Mattis, meanwhile, has talked about the need for 3 percent to 5 percent budget growth each year in order to successfully repair readiness.