Billions More for the Pentagon, but the Buildup Will Have to Wait

Billions More for the Pentagon, but the Buildup Will Have to Wait

© Reuters Staff / Reuters

The Trump budget request raises military spending significantly to $686 billion in 2019, with $617 billion for the base budget and $69 billion for the overseas war-fighting account. (With $30 billion in “other” defense spending, including the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons program, the national security total comes to $716 billion.)

This is roughly in line with the levels defined by the budget deal lawmakers agreed to last week, so it’s a good bet that the final appropriations for 2019 will be in the $700 billion range, an enormous boost by any measure.

At the same time, though, defense hawks are warning that the extra money will get the military only back to where it should have been after years of reduced funding imposed by the budget caps since 2011.

In a briefing on Monday, David Norquist, the Pentagon’s CFO and comptroller, said, “It is a sign of how deep the hole is that we are in that it takes this big of an increase just to get the department’s budget back to where inflation alone would have put us.”

This chart from the Pentagon’s 2019 budget request illustrates the issue:

As the budget restrictions imposed by the budget caps come to an end, much of the increase in the budget will be spent on deferred maintenance and training to rebuild capacities that have been lost or weakened, leaving little left over for the big military buildup President Trump has said he wants.

For example, the budget increase will enable the Navy to buy one more ship than planned in 2019, but that still leaves the fleet far short of the 355 ships promised by the White House, according to Defense News. The fleet will hit 308 ships in 2020, one year ahead of the target set previously by President Obama, but with military spending projected to level off, it will take decades to reach 355 ships. According to Rear Adm. Brian Luther, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget, the Navy won’t hit that target until the 2050s.