With defense hawks and Democrats alike blasting President Trump’s proposal to offset a $54 billion increase in military spending above the statutory budget cap with a corresponding cut in domestic programs, the consensus of budget watchers is that the administration’s fiscal 2018 budget request will be merely the opening salvo in what is likely to turn into a protracted fiscal fight.
On Monday, White House officials described the $603 billion base defense budget Trump expects to propose as a 10 percent jump in spending, as it would raise the FY 2018 budget cap from $549 billion. But Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, respectively, pounced on that figure because it represents an increase of only $18.5 billion above the level proposed by the Obama administration for FY 2018.
“That is a mere 3 percent above President Obama’s defense budget, which has left our military underfunded, undersized and unready to confront threats to our national security,” McCain said in a written statement. The two chairmen criticized the figure for falling well short of the $640 billion base budget they believe is needed to restore a military reeling from years of spending cuts, reported Defense News.
“With a world on fire, America cannot secure peace through strength with just 3 percent more than President Obama’s budget. We can and must do better,” McCain said.
The objections of Congress’ leading defense hawks, coupled with Democratic opposition to $54 billion in cuts to non-defense agencies, likely mean that FY 2018 topline spending won’t go ahead as the administration is proposing. “This plan won’t happen because Democrats will block it,” said Benjamin Friedman of the CATO Institute.