Trump's defense budget: inflated, illegal and condemned.


US President Donald Trump speaks with Lockheed chief test pilot Alan Norman and Martin Marillyn Hewson, general manager, in front of an F-35 fighter presentation of Made in America 2018 products on July 23rd.

US President Donald Trump speaks with Lockheed Martin chief test pilot Alan Norman and general manager Marillyn A. Hewson in front of an F-35 fighter during the presentation of Made in America 2018 products on July 23rd.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

President Donald Trump's request for a $ 750 billion military budget for fiscal year 2020 is not only the largest of all times, but also the most undisciplined since the Reagan administration's inception.

The most telling sign that Pentagon listeners have a long lunch break is that the budget does not cancel a single weapon system. It was bad enough that last year's budget only killed one turkey: an upgrade of the 20-year-old JSTARS combat management aircraft, which would have cost $ 7 billion over several years. years; Jim Mattis, then secretary of defense, decided to order a new plane. But this year, Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan – a former Boeing executive who is still auditioning for the permanent position and who in the meantime has been careful not to cause problems – is leaving the group free.

Determining the need for a large defense establishment, it is absurd to imagine that there is no gram left over. And this extravagance is part of a comprehensive federal budget that reduces – in some cases significantly reduces all agencies except those related to national security (the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Nuclear Weapons Division of Department of Energy) and (the anomaly) the Department of Commerce.

Another line has been crossed: in recent years, defense spending has almost matched the discretionary budgets of all programs other than Combined Defense. In this budget, he finally surpasses them.

Neither the Republican Senate nor the Democratic House will likely let slip a budget of $ 750 billion for defense, an increase of 5% over last year and more than the leaders would have asked. military, while cutting $ 850 billion in health insurance, all the more so that such a reduction would be enacted. in 2020, an election year.

The officials who drew up this budget all admitted that he was dead on arrival. For much of this century, since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the defense budget presentations have been divided into "base" (current weapons demands, research and development, personnel, etc.). ) and in "contingency operations abroad". also known as OCO (the costs of war). The Budget Control Act, passed by Congress in 2011, set a ceiling for the base but, for obvious reasons, gave the Pentagon some flexibility in the management of its central offices.

However, in this year's budget, the Pentagon has put in place a third category: "OCO for Base", which the controller's report defines as supplies, equipment, and other items of defense included in the budget. of the "OCO" in order to comply the defense of the base limits the law in force.

In other words, the top Pentagon budget official admits he's cheating. It's as if a dietitian were fixing the maximum number of calories that a patient could consume – only to hear the patient tell him that he had eaten an extra pot of ice cream after dinner, but that's good because he does not count it as "calories".

The scale of cheating is pretty extravagant. The budget request for contingency operations abroad – the legitimate fighting costs in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere – is $ 66.7 billion, a slight reduction from the 68.8 billions of dollars last year. But the request "OCO for Base" is $ 97.9 billion.

The top Pentagon budget official admits he is Cheating.

Nor is it a single offense: the Pentagon plans to ask for an additional $ 94 billion for "OCO for Base" in next year's budget.

Another new category: $ 9 billion "emergency" funds will reimburse the Army's cost of repairing hurricane damage and building Trump's valuable border wall South.

Between "OCO for Base" and "Emergency", it's almost as if the controller was leading Congress to more than $ 100 billion, which was ready to be recovered.

Some specific programs are also likely to raise controversy, including $ 11 billion for missile defense (against $ 9.9 billion last year, compared to $ 8.5 billion the previous year) and $ 6.5 billion dollars for the development of new nuclear weapons systems that are not ready. for deployment until 2028 or 2030.

Although no weapons program is being phased out, at least one program criticized for several years – due to cost overruns or disappointing performance – is being reduced. Last year, the Pentagon purchased 93 F-35 stealth fighter jets at a cost of $ 11.6 billion. This year, he only bought 78 aircraft for $ 11.2 billion; instead, it introduces a modified version of the long-standing F-15 fighter (the F-15 EX) – eight of them – for $ 1.1 billion.

The budget also requires five additional ships (including an aircraft carrier under construction for several years), 80 additional aircraft and 26,000 men and women on active service. It is also asking for $ 9.6 billion for cyber offensive and defensive programs and $ 14.1 billion for space programs.

In short, this is a slightly enlarged version of the defense budget that we have been seeing for a few years now – with a pin, well attached, to pierce the ball a little.

Representative Adam Smith, the new Democratic Chairman of the Armed Forces Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, said that in his view, the defense budget could be reduced to $ 600 billion without harming security. He was cut off smartly. He also wants to put an end to new nuclear weapons.

With the social, political and fiscal pressures of all parties, there could actually be, for the first time in more than a decade, substantive debates on the defense budget.


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