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Where Trump Wants the Pentagon to Spend its Extra Billions | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with US House Committee Chairmen about healthcare reform in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 10, 2017. /AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB

Washington – President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget outline includes an almost 10 percent hike in defense spending, which already surpasses that of the next seven countries combined.

Overall Pentagon funding would swell from about $583 billion to $639 billion, and would be paid for by deep cuts to other agencies and the scrapping of a number of programs.

Trump has offered few specifics before, but there are some key reasons he says the Pentagon needs the money for.

The additional funding “provides the resources” needed to increase the tempo of the war against the ISIS, according to experts, although the US has spent about $13 billion since fall 2014 bombing ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, but the US president wants to increase the number of air strikes and possibly put more US forces on the ground.

A constant refrain from military leaders has been a lack of “readiness” across the services and generals have warned lawmakers that aging equipment, chronic underfunding and understaffing have impacted how the military can effectively respond to crises. On the matter, Trump’s budget states it would ensure America is “the best led, best equipped, and most ready force in the world.”

Trump has promised a “great rebuilding” of the US military and his budget reiterates that pledge, again without specifics.

Experts say that Trump particularly wants to swell the Army’s ranks and the budget “begins to rebuild the US armed forces by addressing pressing shortfalls, such as insufficient stocks of critical munitions, personnel gaps, deferred maintenance and modernization, cyber vulnerabilities, and degraded facilities.”

Trump in January signed an executive order to begin increasing the size of the US military, promising new aircraft, naval ships and more resources for the Pentagon.

He offered few specifics but has said he envisioned a naval fleet of 350 vessels, up from the Navy’s current 274 and more than its 310-vessel target.

Some Republicans say Trump’s military budget doesn’t go far enough, and some Democrats are horrified the president wants to fund America’s war machine by deep cuts to other programs and agencies. The result is that the proposed budget will likely look very different from the one that passes.

“It is clear to virtually everyone that we have cut our military too much and that it has suffered enormous damage,” Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry said.

“Unfortunately, the administration’s budget request is not enough to repair that damage and to rebuild the military as the president has discussed,” added Thornberry.