- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2018

President Trump is reversing course on proposed cuts to future military budgets, instead preparing to ask Congress for a substantial increase in the Pentagon’s coffers for the upcoming fiscal year. 

Mr. Trump is now calling for a defense spending topline of $750 billion for fiscal year 2020, up from the original $733 billion projection and a sharp reversal from the revised target of $700 billion for the next fiscal year, which starts in October 2019. The new, higher spending level, first reported by Politico, comes weeks after White House officials faced concerted complaints from top military leaders who warned the lower figure would bring Mr. Trump’s promised defense build-up to a screeching halt. 

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Republicans Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Mac Thornberry — the heads of the Senate and House armed services panels — met with Mr. Trump last week to hammer out the budget details. All three men had been vehemently opposed to the White House’s initial defense budget plan of $700 billion, which was part of the Office of Management and Budget’s planned across-the-board cut of 5 percent for all federal agencies to rein in the federal budget deficit. 

Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning on Monday declined to comment on the White House meeting, saying only Pentagon and White House budget officials were working closely to draft a “strategically-based budget” for the coming year. 

The Pentagon expects to have a final proposal of the fiscal year 2020 budget in place by February to be sent to Capitol Hill, Col. Manning noted. 

The change of heart by the Trump administration comes as Pentagon and service leaders are formulating the department’s fiscal year 2020 spending plan. Each of the military branches submitted their future budget proposals to the Pentagon this month.

Administration officials say Mr. Trump’s new $750 billion topline represents a “negotiating tactic,” to make the Pentagon’s initial $733 billion proposal seem more politically palatable to congressional Democrats who now control the House, Politico reported. 

Several senior Pentagon officials, top U.S. commanders and a number of GOP defense hawks on Capitol Hill have also railed against the proposed $700 military budget number since its unveiling in October. Opponents argued the administration would be turning its back on the military if the White House pressed forward with the plan. 

“What I want is the President to understand what are the trade-offs” in U.S. national security with a 5 percent cut, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in November, a month after OMB chief Mick Mulvaney formally ordered the Pentagon to draft up the $700 billion budget plan. 



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