Every Pentagon Wish Is Granted in Trump's Defense Budget Request orrazz.com

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Every Pentagon Wish Is Granted in Trump's Defense Budget Request

AS YOU WISH, SO IT SHALL BE: “The president proposes, Congress disposes,” is a saying popular on Capitol Hill. As we pore over President Trump’s $4.4 trillion budget plan for fiscal 2019, including $716 billion for defense and national security, it’s important to keep in mind that the president's budget request is merely a wish list, an outline of the president’s priorities, and is sent to Congress with the hope that it will be taken into account as lawmakers do the real budget-making.

In the past, Congress has shown a penchant for adding some programs the Pentagon doesn’t want, while trimming in areas it says are risking readiness. This year is different, largely because of the president’s pledge to rebuild the “depleted” military, and the historic bipartisan budget agreement that has already pre-approved the $716 billion top line for next year, (a requested spending level that the Pentagon conveniently shared with Congress so it could be factored into the deal.)  

GOOD TIMES: The result is a budget plan, that while no doubt will be tweaked on the Hill, and has the Pentagon and all the military services basking in the glow of wish fulfilment. Near the end of yesterday’s Pentagon budget briefing, veteran Bloomberg reporter Tony Capaccio asked in all seriousness, “Were any programs terminated in this ‘let the good times roll’ budget?” To which Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist replied, “I don't know that we have a major termination to announce. That wasn't, you know, part of the strategy.” Fellow briefer Lt. Gen. Anthony Ierardi did note an Air Force proposal to terminate the recapitalization of JSTARS. So there’s that.

Norquist said he believes Congress is likely to act “consistent with the legislation that they just passed last week.” But he was quick to add, “Of course they are free to make their own independent decisions of the different programs. They do so every year.” That means first finalizing $700 billion in the overdue defense appropriations for this year and then the $716 billion for 2019.

THE FY 2019 NUMBERS:

  • DoD base budget:                            $617 billion
  • Overseas Contingency Operations:  $69 billion
  • Other including DOE:                        $30 billion
  • Total national defense:                     $716 billion

OVER TO THE HILL: Now it’s in Congress’ hands. After its coming out party, Trump’s $716 billion defense budget was delivered to Capitol Hill yesterday, along with the rest of his 2019 request for the federal government. “Today marks the beginning of the fiscal year 2019 budget process,” said Rep. Steve Womack, the House Budget Committee chairman. The president’s request hikes defense spending by 12 percent over 2017, which was the last time Congress passed a full-year spending bill. It’s just what Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he needs to begin modernizing and rebuilding the armed forces. Lawmakers will now weigh the proposal as they hold hearings and begin to write the new National Defense Authorization Act and defense appropriations legislation for the coming year.

WHAT’S IN THE REQUEST: Trump’s first budget last year was largely based on the previous budget of the Obama administration. But since then leaders have completed the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, which Norquist said formed the basis of the request unveiled Monday. “This is a strategy-based budget. The strategy determined what we looked at. It determined the choices that the department made, and it determined the level of funding requested and required,” Norquist said. Here are some of the highlights:

Ships — The Navy would get a total of 10 new ships, including three destroyers, one littoral combat ship, and two Virginia-class submarines. Last year, the Pentagon requested nine ships and Congress ultimately authorized 13 as part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which set levels for ships, aircraft and troops. Congress hopes to wrap up appropriations to fund those ships and the rest of the current defense budget by March 23.

Aircraft — The Pentagon said the request aims to increase production of Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighters and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, though proposed purchases for 2019 fall below or at this year’s purchases authorized by the NDAA. The services would buy 77 F-35s: 48 for the Air Force, 20 for the Marine Corps and nine for the Navy. The NDAA authorizes 90 of the aircraft for this year. Meanwhile, the Pentagon proposes to buy a total of two dozen Super Hornets, which is the same number authorized for this year.

Troops — The total size of the military would grow by 15,600 troops in 2019 over what was authorized in the NDAA for 2018. The Navy is poised to see the lion’s share of that growth. It would get 7,500 more sailors as it struggles to meet demands on its crews and ships in the Western Pacific and around the world. Both the Air Force and Army would each see their troop strength increase by 4,000. But Army Guard and Army Reserve forces would not grow over the authorized 2018 levels. Last year, the Trump administration proposed zero growth for the Army but Congress instead authorized 7,500 more soldiers this year.

Pay — Military pay and benefits funding grows by more than $6.1 billion over the fiscal 2018 request. This increase includes funding for a 2.6 percent military pay raise, the largest in nine years.

Missile defense — The Missile Defense Agency is asking for $9.9 billion to improve the ability of the United States to shoot down enemy missiles as the threat from North Korea becomes more acute. The request includes funds for 20 additional ground-based interceptors to be based at Fort Greely, Alaska. That will bring the number of interceptor missiles in Alaska to 64 by 2023.

DEFENSE BUDGET ROUNDUP: Here is some of the other coverage of the Pentagon’s 2019 budget rollout on Monday:

The massive military buildup of warships and combat aircraft promised by Trump on the campaign trail still hasn’t materialized. Instead, the budget proposal starts digging the military out a $406 billion hole. — Defense One

The Navy’s five-year plan calls for 31 more deployed ships and a fleet that is 46 ships larger. However, it is not clear how the Navy would support an average of 131 ships deployed with that sized fleet. — USNI News

Trump is requesting $5.3 billion for the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Military Financing program for 2019, a $1 billion cut from what Congress is expected to budget. — Defense News

The U.S. Navy shipbuilding budget request seems to make little headway toward a 355-ship fleet called for in a review last year. — Navy Times

The Air Force wants to add 4,700 airmen to its ranks, as well as purchase more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, MQ-9 Reaper drones, the latest KC-46 tankers and a slew of weapons. — Military.com

The Army’s $182 billion fiscal 2019 budget request is a major funding boost over recent years and seeks to continue readiness recovery and fill capability gaps. — Military Times

BYE-BYE, BRAC: Military leaders have pleaded with Congress for years to allow the closure of tens of thousands of excess military bases around the world, a move that Mattis says could save the services $2 billion annually. But lawmakers had blocked shuttering any facilities under the Base Realignment and Closure program. On Monday, the Pentagon announced that it has given up on the effort for now and did not even mention BRAC in the request. “We did not ask for that in this budget. We’ve asked for it a number of times in the past without much success,” Norquist said. Instead, the Pentagon will be “working with Congress to find common areas where we can make reforms and changes that don’t create the same types of obstacles,” he said.

The conservative Heritage Foundation think tank estimated last year that about 19 percent of more than 438,000 properties the military owns around the world could be ripe for consideration under a new BRAC round, which would be triggered by Congress and include a long review process overseen by a special panel. “It is disappointing but not unexpected. It is very unlikely that Congress would vote or approve a new round of BRAC during an election year,” Frederico Bartels, a Heritage defense budget analyst, told us. But the Pentagon did not rule out requesting a BRAC round in the future after it completes a first-ever full financial audit. Bartels said he hopes the Pentagon will come back with a proposal for 2020 that will include reforms to entice skeptical lawmakers.

Good Tuesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre), National Security Writer Travis J. Tritten (@travis_tritten) and Senior Editor David Brown (@dave_brown24). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter @dailyondefense.

Published at Wed, 14 Feb 2018 14:36:31 +0000

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