Donald Trump has vowed to “rebuild the military” and will get his chance to start as he drafts his first federal budget plan.
Trump’s first Pentagon funding request must be complete by April, when temporary legislation funding government operations is set to expire. It will set a baseline for at least the next four years of defense spending.
The president-elect has vowed to grow the Army and Marine Corps, increase Navy shipbuilding and boost the number of Air Force fighter aircraft. He also wants more money to modernize U.S. nuclear weapons systems and more investment in cyber security.
Over President Obama’s objections, Congress in December passed legislation that funds the addition of 23,000 troops across the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps. By some estimates, Trump’s long-term plans could see the active-duty force grow by almost another 140,000 personnel.
Some observers have called such plans prohibitively expensive. The National Taxpayers Union Foundation, for instance, estimates — at minimum — those plans will require an annual defense spending boost of 3 percent. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has pegged the cost at an additional $150 billion in coming years.
That could be a tough ask, given the focus among conservatives in Congress who have campaigned on reducing government spending.
Trump has said he’s confident that savings can be found by cutting bureaucracy and better policing government waste. But few independent analysts believe such reductions will be enough to offset the cost.
A big question to be answered is whether Trump tries to buck fiscal conservatives with a costly military buildup — or instead scales back his campaign promises in favor of more modest spending.