President Trump will request $750 billion for the next Pentagon budget, reversing course on possible defense cuts he discussed just a few weeks ago, Politico’s Wesley Morgan reported Sunday.
Top military officials have been resisting Trump’s call for budget cuts, with Defense Secretary James Mattis pushing instead for a defense budget of $733 billion in the next fiscal year, an increase from the $716 billion appropriated in the current year. Mattis met last week with Trump and the Republican chairs of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and by the end of their lunch, the president reportedly agreed that Mattis should submit a budget request of $750 billion for 2020.
Cancel the cuts? In October, as Trump asked his cabinet to cut their budgets by 5 percent in order to put a dent in the growing budget deficit, he said the 2020 defense budget would be reduced to $700 billion. Then just last week, Trump tweeted about “a major and uncontrollable Arms Race” that pushed U.S. defense spending higher this year: “The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars. Crazy!”
A dealmaking tactic? The significantly larger defense budget request for 2020 could be a negotiating tactic, Morgan said, deployed to ensure that the final topline number settled on with Democratic lawmakers does not come in below the $733 billion Mattis wants.
What’s next: The $750 billion budget figure is not yet official, although it seems clear that the budget cuts mentioned by Trump are no longer an option and Pentagon officials have reportedly stopped working on a smaller, $700 billion version of their budget request for 2020. Lawmakers will need to lift the spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act before any increases can occur, but that hasn’t been much of hurdle lately. At the same time, Trump is always a wildcard, and he could announce a new position on the defense budget at any point. “[T]he president changes his mind constantly," one official pointed out to Politico.