Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Budget the Likes of Which the Pentagon Has Never Seen

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Budget the Likes of Which the Pentagon Has Never Seen

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * It's the biggest budget the Pentagon has ever seen: $700 billion. That's far more for defense than what is known to be spent by America's two nearest competitors, China and Russia, and will mean the military can foot the bill for thousands more troops, more training, more ships and a lot else.

And next year it would rise to $716 billion. Together, the two-year deal provides what Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says is needed to pull the military out of a slump in combat readiness at a time of renewed focus on the stalemated conflict in Afghanistan and the threat of war on the Korean peninsula.

The budget bill that President Donald Trump signed Friday includes huge spending increases for the military: The Pentagon will get $94 billion more this budget year than last a 15.5 percent jump. It's the biggest year-over-year windfall since the budget soared by 26.6 percent, from $345 billion in 2002 to $437 billion the year after, when the nation was fighting in Afghanistan, invading Iraq and expanding national defense after the 9/11 attacks.

The extra money is not targeted at countering a new enemy or a threat such as al-Qaida extremists or the former Soviet Union. Instead the infusion is being sold as a fix for a broader set of problems, including a deficit of training, a need for more advanced missile defenses, and the start of a complete recapitalization of the nuclear weapons arsenal.

Every secretary of defense since 2011, when Congress passed a law setting firm limits on military and domestic spending, has complained that spending caps set by the Budget Control Act were squeezing the military so hard that the number of ready-to-fight combat units was dwindling. Aging equipment was stacking up, troops were not getting enough training and the uncertain budget outlook was clouding America's future.

"I cannot overstate the negative impact to our troops and families' morale from all this budget uncertainty," Mattis said just hours before the House and Senate approved the deal.

More money for the Pentagon, however, is not the simple solution some might think. Even with the spending caps of recent years, the defense budget has been robust by historical standards. …

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