The real winner of the 2016 election may have been the military-industrial complex.
On Monday, President Donald Trump called for a $54 billion increase in the already-gargantuan defense budget, taking the annual appropriation up to $603 billion. Trump justified the increase by saying the U.S. military had been “depleted” in recent years.
To pay for the increase, Trump said he wanted cuts to discretionary spending, though he also said, “We’re going to start spending on infrastructure, big.” Infrastructure is discretionary spending.
Among the chief targets for cuts to offset the defense spending increase are the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Foreign aid in particular is a target at the State Department. Trump spent much of his campaign slamming the EPA for holding back the economy through burdensome environmental regulation.
Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the agency is a pretty clear indication that he wants the EPA to do as little as possible. Cutting its budget would paralyze its operations even more.
Despite the major increase, some hawkish members of Congress are crying foul. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry (R-TX) have called on President Trump to support a larger increase of over $90 billion in the defense budget to get to a total of $640 billion.
Offsetting over $90 billion would obviously be more difficult than offsetting $54 billion, though either effort will be tough. There has already been push back from Republicans in Congress about the proposed budget.
Also worth keeping in mind is that the proposed budget does not touch Social Security and Medicare, but it also does not address repealing and replacing Obamacare, nor the tax overhaul Trump promised during the campaign. It is not even clear if such plans exist or are ready to be seriously proposed.
Tonight, President Trump will address a joint session of Congress presumably to offer more details on his agenda. Trump has prided himself on being a deal maker. His opening offer on a federal budget is not being well received by many outside of the defense industry.