Overnight Defense: Pentagon seeks $686B for fiscal 2019 | Focus on more troops, ships, planes | Billions sought to modernize nuke arsenal | Plan aims to deter Russia, China | No new round of base closures
BY REBECCA KHEEL - 02/12/18 05:18 PM EST
THE TOPLINE: The Trump administration's fiscal 2019 budget proposal is out, and as expected, it asks for $716 billion for defense.
That total, which accounts for the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons programs, includes $686 billion for the Pentagon.
That's broken down into $617 billion for the Pentagon base budget and $69 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.
That money would add 25,900 more troops to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines above last year's request.
It would also pay for 77 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 24 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets and 10 new Navy ships.
The request comes days after Congress approved a deal to raise defense spending caps from $549 billion. Caps on discretionary spending are now set at $716 billion for fiscal 2019.
Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters on Friday that the increase will be used to rebuild the military's long-eroding advantage over other nations.
That line of thinking appears often in the budget documents, which notes that "major power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security," and asks for more than $1 trillion more than President Obama's 10-year plan for the Pentagon.
"Long-term strategic competitions with China and Russia are the principle priorities for the Department, and require both increased and sustained investment ... because of the magnitude of the threats each pose to U.S. security and prosperity," according to defense budget overview documents.
BILLIONS FOR NUKES, MISSILE DEFENSE: The Pentagon's budget proposal also includes $24 billion for nuclear deterrence and $12.9 billion for missile defense in fiscal 2019.
The requests come on the heels of the administration's Nuclear Posture Review and ahead of the release of the Ballistic Missile Defense Review.
"Modernizing the nation's nuclear delivery systems is the department's number one priority, and these programs are fully funded in the [fiscal] 2019 budget," the Pentagon's budget proposal reads.
President Trump has often spoken about modernizing and bulking up the U.S. nuclear arsenal, saying in his State of the Union last month that it needs to be made "so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression by any other nation."
$6.5B FOR DETERRING RUSSIA: The Trump administration is proposing an additional $1.7 billion for a Pentagon fund meant to deter Russian aggression and reassure nervous European allies.
The Pentagon is asking for $6.5 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) as part of its fiscal year 2019 budget request, compared to the $4.8 billion requested for fiscal 2018.
Formerly known as the European Reassurance Initiative, the fund was first created in 2014 to bolster the U.S. military in Europe and reassure allies worried about a resurgent Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea.
The 2019 request "provides near-term flexibility and responsiveness to the evolving concerns of U.S. allies and partners in Europe and helps to increase the capability and readiness of U.S. allies and partners," according to the Pentagon budget proposal.
WHAT'S NOT IN THE REQUEST: For the first time in years, the Pentagon is not asking Congress to authorize another round of base closures.
Requests to authorize the politically unpopular Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process have landed with a thud on Capitol Hill in recent years, a reality the Pentagon indicated was part of the reason for its exclusion from this year's budget request.
The Pentagon also suggested it was awaiting the results of an audit before it requests BRAC again.
"We've asked for it for a number of times in the past without much success," Pentagon comptroller David Norquist said at a briefing. "And so I think we're looking at doing two things going forward.
"One is working with Congress to find common areas where we can make reforms and changes that don't create the same types of obstacles," he continued. "The other is that we are undergoing a financial-statement audit that includes a look at property, and assets and investments and improving the accuracy of the data behind it."