Trump Defense Budget Seeks to Balance Current, Future Needs

President Donald J. Trump's fiscal year 2018 Defense Department budget request proposes a $52.4 billion increase over the 2017 request and seeks to shore up readiness, procure systems for the future and fully fund operations worldwide

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Washington, DC – President Donald J. Trump’s fiscal year 2018 Defense Department budget request proposes a $52.4 billion increase over the 2017 request and seeks to shore up readiness, procure systems for the future and fully fund operations worldwide.

The budget request is $574.5 billion, with a $64.6 billion request for overseas contingency operations. Officials said the budget request — that still must be passed by Congress — reverses the manpower decline with funding that would put the services on track to increase by 56,000 service members.

Balancing Readiness Needs

The president’s budget request seeks to balance the needs of near-term readiness — and the necessity to train forces for conflict — with the needs of the future force, officials said, adding that it breaks through the cap set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 by $52 billion and will require congressional action.

Active duty end strength is set at 1,314,000, with the Army holding steady at 476,000, the Navy increasing by 1,408 to 327,000, the Marine Corps growing by 574 to 185,000 and the Air Force growing by 3,975 to 325,100. The reserve force will grow by 2,085 to a total of 815,900. The total of military strength will rise by 8,042 to 2,129,900.

The total change in size in both the fiscal 2017 budget and the 2018 budget request is 56,400 total.

On the pay side, the budget calls for a 2.1 percent pay raise for military personnel and 1.9 percent for civilians.

By service, the Army is budgeted at $137.1 billion, the Navy at $171.5 billion, the Air Force at $165.5 billion and Defense-wide money is set at $100.4 billion.

Operations, Maintenance

The operations and maintenance account is by far the largest section of the request’s base budget set at $223.3 billion. Military personnel accounts come in at $141.6 billion and procurement is set at $115 billion. Research and engineering comes in at $82.7 billion and military construction is set at $11.9 billion.

Restoring service readiness is key to the budget, officials said, adding that the Budget Control Act of 2011 decimated service readiness and imposed severe cuts in training, spare parts, steaming days and flight hours. This budget request posits 19 training rotations for Army units in their “high-end” collective training sites, officials said, and it also increases money spent on ship maintenance, looking to reduce waiting times, and increases flight hours for naval aviators.

The Marine Corps portion of the budget request funds the forward-deployed special-purpose Marine air-ground task forces and bumps up funding in maintenance and modernization programs. Air Force money targets the pilot and aircraft maintenance shortage and funds weapons sustainment programs.

Special Operations

Money aimed at US Special Operations Command funds more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capacity and modernization of intelligence, targeting and strike enablers.

Procurement is led by 70 F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters for $10.8 billion. The Air Force will also begin replacing its aging aerial refueling fleet with a $3.1 billion buy of 15 KC-46 Pegasus tankers, and its portion of the budget request includes $2 billion for the B-21 Raider long-range bomber. The Army’s big buy is 61 Apache attack helicopters at $1.4 billion and 48 Black Hawk choppers at $1.1 billion.

The Navy request includes $5.5 billion for two Virginia-class submarines, $4 billion for two Burke-class Aegis destroyers, $1.2 billion for a littoral combat ship and $4.6 billion for the Ford-class aircraft carrier program.

The budget request also includes $1.1 billion for 2,775 joint light tactical vehicles, and it seeks the authority to convene a new round of base closures in 2021.

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