Pentagon requests $74B budget increase for 2019

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Feb. 12 (UPI) — Senior Pentagon officials will be asking Congress for an increase of nearly $74 billion in defense spending next year as the military looks to grow its capabilities, as well as shifts its focus to nation states instead of terrorism.

On Monday, Defense Department Comptroller David L. Norquist along with Army Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, the Joint Staff’s director of force structure, resources and assessment, unveiled the Pentagon’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019.

If approved, the proposed fiscal year 2019 budget would be greater than the current fiscal year budget, passed on Friday and valued at more than $700 billion — surpassing the United States’ primary defense competitors, China and Russia.

“Great power competition, not terrorism, has emerged as the central challenge to U.S. security and prosperity,” Norquist said. “It is increasingly apparent that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian values, and in the process, replace the free and open order that has enabled global security and prosperity since World War II.”

The proposed national defense budget for fiscal year 2019 — beginning on Oct. 1 — is $716 billion, although this figure also includes Department of Energy nuclear programs. The budget proposal is significantly larger than the Pentagon’s 2018 request for $617 billion.

For military spending, the Pentagon would receive $686 billion, with $617 billion allocated to the Base Budget, and another $69 billion going to the Pentagon’s Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, which funds wars and overseas operations. OCO funds are not subject to sequestration and are not part of the official Defense Department budget.

OCO funds had been steadily declining since 2009 as President Barack Obama committed to scaling back forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, but have started to rise again since President Donald Trump took office.

Defense Secretary James Mattis lauded the proposed budget saying it is needed to reshape and improve the military’s lackluster combat readiness while shifting its focus away from terrorism.

The surge in OCO and Base Budget funding aligns with Trump’s new national security strategy to prioritize strategic competition with China and Russia, along with deterring North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, over counterterrorism efforts.

The fiscal year 2019 budget seeks to procure 10 new naval warships, along with growing the Air Force from 55 combat squadrons to 58 by fiscal year 2024.

While the Pentagon is looking to procure additional aircraft, ships, ballistic missiles, tanks and satellites, a large portion of spending is also earmarked for vague “mission support activities” at a cost of $66.8 billion — an increase of more than $16.9 billion from the current fiscal year.

The budget calls for an increase in troop strength of 25,900. The current manpower of the armed forces stands at more than 1.34 million as of December 2017.

“This allows us to fill in units and provide key skills related to recruiting pilots, maintainers and cybersecurity experts,” Norquist said. “It also allows us to add units related to reinforcing the National Defense Strategy.”

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