Trump eyes increase in defence spending

Published Mon, Feb 27, 2017 · 10:59 PM
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[WASHINGTON] President Donald Trump teased a budget plan Monday that includes a nearly 10 per cent increase in defence spending and a "large reduction" in foreign aid.

Previewing measures aimed at backing up campaign promises with dollars and cents, Mr Trump promised a "public safety and national security" focused fiscal plan.

An administration official said that Mr Trump's plan would include a US$54 billion increase in defense spending and a corresponding decrease in non-military programmes.

"Most federal agencies will see a reduction as a result," the official said. There will be a "large reduction in foreign aid," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Mr Trump has put security threats front and centre of his administration, insisting a muscular response is the only option.

He has promised to build a wall on the Mexican border, deport illegal immigrants and wipe jihadists off the "face of the earth". His budget proposal - which will be picked over and must ultimately be approved by Congress - doubles down on that ethos.

It would substantially increase US defence spending - already by far the highest in the world - although there were no details about how the extra funds would be spent.

Mr Trump claimed that his budget "follows through on my promise on keeping Americans safe".

"It will include a historic increase in defence spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it," Mr Trump said.

Republican Senator John McCain argued that the increase was less significant than Mr Trump suggested, representing a three per cent increase over projection for fiscal year 2018.

"We can and must do better," he said.

But others raised questions about the impact of planned cuts at the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency.

Foreign aid accounts for less than one per cent of US federal spending and is not enough to make up for increased defence spending.

"It is a fairly small part of the discretionary budget, but it is still consistent with what the President said," Trump budget tsar Mick Mulvaney said.

"We are taking his words and turning them into policies and dollars."

Mark Toner, the acting State Department spokesman, said the agency would work with the White House to review "budget priorities".

"The department remains committed to a US foreign policy that advances the security and prosperity of the American people," he said.

Mr Trump's comments come a day before he addresses a joint session of Congress - a crucial agenda-setting moment for new presidents.

His initial budget outline did not include proposals for mandatory spending or tax proposals, which make up the bulk of government outlays and receipts.

The budget is a keystone statement of Mr Trump's priorities for the coming years.

The nearly US$4 trillion annual federal budget is a declaration of intent that puts the president's policy goals down in black and white.

It also separates affordable campaign promises from the fanciful and is the final arbitrator after turf wars between departments and powerful interest groups.

Mr Trump has promised to cut waste and duplication in federal spending.

US president after US president has made similar promises upon coming to office, before delving into a text that runs in the thousands of pages and tossing the plan into the thicket of Congress.

Mr Trump has oodles of campaign promises to pay for, but faces a national debt set to hit US$20 trillion on his watch and a deficit at 3.1 per cent of GDP and rising.

Mr Trump's promises - from building a wall on the Mexican border to stepping up the deportation of undocumented immigrants - carry an estimated price tag of US$5.3 trillion, according to the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.


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