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Trump is said to seek $716 billion in defense spending for 2019

President Donald Trump (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

President Donald Trump will propose increasing total defense spending to $716 billion in fiscal 2019 in his budget request expected to be released in February, a U.S. official said, backing the Pentagon’s push for a major buildup.

The funding would include $597 billion for the Defense Department’s base budget, with the rest going for its war-fighting account and to other government programs such as the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons program, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the release of Trump’s second proposed budget.

The amount, reported earlier Friday by The Washington Post, is a sharp increase from the $668 billion Trump proposed last year for fiscal 2018 and offered as a placeholder for fiscal 2019. The plan represents a victory of defense hawks over those trying to constrain deficit spending.

The proposal tracks bipartisan negotiations taking place in Congress on a two-year budget deal, as Republicans and Democrats seek agreement on a $70 billion increase to defense budget caps in 2018 and 2019 paired with increases for domestic spending.

Combined with the recently passed tax-cut package, the defense increases are likely to make it difficult for the White House to produce a 10-year budget blueprint that balances over a decade, which has been a goal of White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.

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Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Meghan Burris declined to comment.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has pushed for a jump in defense spending to match the breadth of the new National Defense Strategy he released this month.

Citing Russian and Chinese military ambitions, Mattis said in a Jan. 19 speech presenting the strategy that “everything we do in the department must contribute to the lethality of our military” because “our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare — air, land, sea, space and cyberspace — and it is continuing to erode.”

Ultimately, Trump’s proposal will be measured by the amount it exceeds the budget caps mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“No enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of the U.S. military” than the “budgetary confusion” imposed by the caps and by stopgap spending measures passed by Congress, Mattis said in the speech.

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(With assistance from Roxana Tiron and Jennifer Jacobs.)

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© 2018 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.