WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump is proposing a huge US$54 billion surge in U.S. military spending for new aircraft, ships and fighters in his first federal budget while slashing big chunks from domestic programs and foreign aid. The Trump blueprint, due in more detail next month, would fulfill the Republican president’s campaign pledge to boost Pentagon spending while targeting the budgets of other federal agencies. Domestic programs and foreign aid would as a whole absorb a 10 percent, US$54 billion cut from currently projected levels — cuts that would match the military increase. The cuts would be felt far more deeply by programs and agencies targeted by Trump and his fellow Republicans, like the Environmental Protection Agency as well as foreign aid. “We’re going to start spending on infrastructure big. It’s not like we have a choice — our highways, our bridges are unsafe, our tunnels,” the president told a group of governors at the White House on Monday. He added, “We’re going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people.”
However, Trump’s final version of the budget is sure to leave large deficits intact — or even add to them if he follows through on his campaign promise for a huge tax cut.
His plan faces strong opposition from Democrats, who possess the power to block it. The immediate reaction from Republicans was mixed.
A congressional showdown is inevitable later this year, and a government shutdown a real possibility.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the spike in Pentagon spending would bring the total defense budget to a record US$603 billion — and that’s before including tens of billions of dollars for overseas military operations.
The United States already spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined, but military leaders have complained repeatedly that aircraft are aging. Congress was told recently that the average age of Air Force aircraft is 27 years, and more than half of the service’s inventory would qualify for antique vehicle license plates in Virginia.