Increasing bipartisan concern about the nation’s growing debt makes it very unlikely Congress will provide sufficient funding for DOD to carry out the new National Defense Strategy which emphasizes great-power competition, according to an op-ed by Mackenzie Eaglen, a resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute. “Contrary to the president’s rhetoric, there is no forthcoming Trump buildup, and the new strategy emphasizing China and Russia is becoming ever more elusive and out of touch with fiscal reality. It is simply unaffordable at this point in time,” Eaglen writes in Breaking Defense.
In recent weeks, senior administration officials have signaled that President Trump will request only $700 billion for national security in fiscal 2020, a $33 billion drop from their original plan. But even under a $733 billion topline — which would represent a 2.4 percent jump over the current year — the Pentagon’s real purchasing power would barely budge, Eaglen writes. And with the Democrats in control of the House next year, achieving that marginal growth “will be a tall hill to climb for the new Congress,” she states. The two-year budget deal struck earlier this year provided $185 billion in extra spending for defense and $131 billion for non-defense programs, but House Democrats almost certainly will demand parity for the two accounts in negotiations to lift the Budget Control Act caps in FY 2020 and FY 2021.
Many lawmakers will not accept anything less than flat funding for defense, though, and they will fight to prevent a deal with less than $733 billion from going ahead. A worst case scenario would see the return of sequestration, as in 2013, if lawmakers fail to reach a deal to relax the spending caps for FY 2020, Eaglen writes.