WASHINGTON — The Pentagon received the biggest budget request in recent times on Monday, with more than $700 billion to add thousands of new troops, new weapons, higher pay, and benefits and upgrade existing resources.
It is also believed to be more in defense spending that the two nations cited as America’s biggest threats — China and Russia — combined spending.
The money is part of the Trump administration’s $4.4 trillion budget request and would provide the Pentagon $617 billion in its base budget and $60 billion for its overseas operations account. That will be the biggest boost in military spending since the Reagan-era of the 1980s.
Another $30 billion would be spent by other government departments, including the Department of Energy, for the nuclear arsenal.
Among the attention-grabbing line items: a manpower increase of 25,900, 10 new naval ships in fiscal 2019 (the next fiscal year), and giving money so the Air Force can grow from 55 combat squadrons to 58 over the next five years.
The Army would grow by 11,500 troops, the Navy by 7,500 sailors, the Air Force by 4000, and the Marines by 1,100, according to Pentagon documents. Troops would get a pay raise of about 2.6 percent.
Reserve strength would also increase by 1,800, with an increase of 500 each for the Army, Army National Guard, and the Air National Guard, with 100 for the Navy Reserve and 200 for the Air Force Reserve.
Of the $89 billion war-funding budget, $17.4 billion would go toward the Pentagon’s base budget; $48.9 billion is for the war in Afghanistan; and $15.2 billion towards the battle against the ISIS and Syria.
Speaking to reporters en route to Europe, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the two-year budget plan would permit the military to pivot and return “back to a position of primacy.”
With the new money the Pentagon is now able “to address the changing forms of warfare and to bring the current capabilities up,” Mattis said.
He said the $1.4 trillion going to the military over the next two years will be directed more to building the lethality and capabilities of the force in an effort to establish dominance.
“We will be standing up some new elements — cyber is one example. And we will be recruiting more mechanics in the Air Force and recruiting more soldiers and sailors,” he said. He also said the money will be used to refill depleted inventories, particularly munitions. “It’s built more to address the changing forms of warfare and to bring the current capabilities up,” he said.
Some analysts fear a flowing spigot of money will be wasted, without the current need to make tough spending choices.
Within the war-funding budget, $6.5 billion is for the European Deterrence Initiative — bolstering European allies against Russian aggression. Another $0.9 billion would go towards training partner nations.
The Pentagon is increasing its support for Afghan forces by $300 million from its fiscal year 2018 request. That will support 352,000 members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, including 93,000 Afghan National Army (ANA), 116,000 Afghan National Police (ANP), 11,000 Afghan Air Force (AAF), and 32,000 Afghan Special Security Force (ASSF), and 30,000 Afghan Local Police (ALP).
The budget earmarks $236.7 billion for acquisitions. Of that, $144.3 billion is for procurement and $92.4 billion is for research, development, testing and evaluation. Major defense acquisition programs take up $92.3 billion.
One of the largest increases is for undefined “mission support activities,” which jumps $16.9 billion, from $49.9 billion in FY18 to $66.8 billion in FY19.
Twenty-eight percent of the investment budget request includes various departmental capabilities, such as live-fire test and evaluation, classified special programs and the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization — which is researching counter-drone technologies.