President’s budget will seek an equal amount in cuts from nondefense agencies
The budget will call for a $54 billion increase in defense funding with offsetting funding cuts for nondefense agencies, officials said. Those cuts could be spread across nondefense agencies and are likely to hit foreign-aid funding, officials said, reflecting Mr. Trump’s call for U.S. allies to pick up a greater share in global peacekeeping efforts.
“This budget will be a public-safety and national-security budget,” Mr. Trump said. “It will include a historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it.”
He added, “This is a landmark event, a message to the world in these dangerous times, of American strength, security and resolve.”
The White House will send federal agencies their proposed 2018 budget allocations at noon Monday, an official said.
The outline, due next month, will include only targets for discretionary spending programs, which represent around one-third of total federal spending. The blueprint won’t include proposed changes on tax policy or mandatory spending.
“These are the president’s priorities,” said Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, calling it an “America-first budget.” He added, “We are taking his words and turning them into policies and dollars.”
Mr. Trump’s budget proposal will spend $603 billion on the military, while nondefense spending will total $462 billion, Mr. Mulvaney said. That is a swing of $54 billion in both directions.
The budget proposal would prioritize border security, care for military veterans and “school choice,” without adding to the deficit, Mr. Mulvaney said. He said agencies would recommend areas for reduction. Final numbers are scheduled to be in hand by March 16, and a full budget proposal would be completed by early May.
Officials have also said Mr. Trump won’t propose any changes to Social Security and Medicare, the two largest drivers of federal spending over the coming decade.
The president’s fiscal proposal, a wish list that Congress may incorporate or disregard when preparing its own budget resolution, marks the opening of the monthslong process to set funding levels for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Spending bills originate with Congress and need 60 votes in the Senate to clear procedural hurdles.
Any effort to increase defense funding and decrease nondefense funding would require Congress also to amend a 2011 law that required across-the-board budget cuts. Congress has repeatedly loosened those caps over the past few years, but they have always maintained a parity rule that required both defense and nondefense budgets to rise by equal amounts.
“Enacting appropriations law—as opposed to proposing nonbinding budget resolutions—will likely require Democratic votes,” just as they have in recent years, said New York Rep. Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. “Democrats will not help pass laws that shift more economic burdens onto hardworking American families.”
Mr. Trump made military expansion a priority during the campaign, vowing in September to increase the number of active Army troops to 540,000 from 490,000 and boost the number of Marine Corps battalions to 36 from 23, or an extra 12,480 troops. He promised to build a Navy of 350 surface ships and submarines, up from 275 ships now, and to add about 100 fighter craft to the Air Force, bringing the total to 1,200.
Mr. Trump could face a bruising budget battle, not only from Democrats but also within his own party. Republicans in recent years have been divided over whether to control deficits by cutting spending or to accommodate more military funding.
The increased funding levels drew criticism from some GOP lawmakers who have pushed for even higher spending at the Pentagon and who said the boost was insufficient.
After years of automatic spending curbs, “we can and should do more than this level of funding will allow,” said Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “The administration will have to make clear which problems facing our military they are choosing not to fix.