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Of the $65 billion in war funding, $28.9 billion goes to the Army, while only $17.5 billion goes to the Air Force, even though USAF has conducted 70 percent of all coalition airstrikes (roughly 70 combat sorties a day) in Iraq and Syria and dropped 56,000 munitions against ISIS since 2014. FY18 President's Budget Image​.

​—Wilson Brissett

President Donald Trump is requesting $574 billion in base funding for the Department of Defense and $65 billion in overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding for fiscal year 2018. The base budget requests a three percent increase over the Obama administration’s final 2018 projection. The modest spending growth represents “the second step in a three-step process to rebuild the armed forces,” the department said in a press release. The focus of that second step is “restoring a balanced defense program.”

Members of Congress who had hoped Trump would lead a major rebuilding of the military immediately criticized the request. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a statement Tuesday saying the proposal “fails to provide the necessary resources to restore military readiness” and is likely to be “dead on arrival in Congress.” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement, “the administration’s budget proposal for defense is not enough to do what the President said he wants to do.”

Both McCain and Thornberry have supported a DOD budget that begins with a $640 billion topline and adds OCO funding on top of that.

Acting DOD comptroller John Roth defended the proposal while briefing reporters Tuesday.

“We’re asking for an increase,” he said, noting the administration’s topline is $52 billion above the legal caps set in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. “$52 billion, I would argue, is not chump change. That’s a pretty significant increase in the defense budget.”
 
Roth said the DOD had aimed at producing a budget that was “politically palatable” given the climate in Washington, D.C. Even so, he warned, “it’s going to take a lot in Congress, in both the House and Senate,” to pass the budget as proposed. He also told reporters that further spending increases would be proposed for FY19 “once we have the new defense strategy,” which is currently being developed by the department.

“We’re not going to solve the readiness problem in one year,” he cautioned. “We’re not going to modernize overnight.”

What the Budget Does


Roth said the President’s Budget addresses the military’s direst needs. To begin rebuilding readiness levels, the proposal would add nearly 6,000 Active Duty military personnel. The Air Force would receive the bulk of these increases and grow to an end strength of 325,100 in order “to address pilot and maintainer shortfalls.” All Active Duty military personnel would also receive a 2.1 percent pay raise.

The budget includes money for 70 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and 15 KC-46 tankers. The Army would also buy 64 new Apache helicopters, 48 Black Hawks, and 2,775 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. The Navy would get 14 F/A-18 fighter aircraft, two Virginia class submarines, two destroyers, a Littoral Combat Ship, and a carrier.

The nation’s aging nuclear infrastructure would also get a boost.

“One of the highest priorities is to recapitalize and modernize the nuclear enterprise across the entire nuclear triad,” Roth told reporters. As such, the President is asking for $216 million to recapitalize the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent and $451 million for a new Long-Range StandOff weapon.

Roth also said the budget seeks to prioritize “key investments in cyber and space capabilities” by continuing efforts to “elevate the Cyber Command” and funding three new competitive launches in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. The budget also funds two more vehicles in the Space Based Infrared System, and gives $100 million more to GPS III system development.

DOD is also interested in saving money through another round of Base Realignment and Closure. While BRAC would not begin until 2021, the President’s FY18 budget includes funding and authorization to begin a “detailed analysis” of excess capacity, Roth said. He estimated that DOD could ultimately “save about $2 billion per year” through an additional round of BRAC.

The War Account


Of the $65 billion in war funding, $28.9 billion goes to the Army, while only $17.5 billion goes to the Air Force, even though USAF has conducted 70 percent of all coalition airstrikes (roughly 70 combat sorties a day) in Iraq and Syria and dropped 56,000 munitions against ISIS since 2014, according to the service.

The requested OCO funds seek to maintain deployed troops at or near current levels, though Roth said troop levels in Afghanistan are currently under review, which could lead to a revised OCO request.

Also under OCO, the department is requesting a $1.4 billion increase in funding for the European Reassurance Initiative, which was launched in 2014 in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Those funds will be used to support “increased US military presence in Europe,” including $150 million to train and equip Ukrainian forces, according to the Department’s budget overview.