Trump’s double down on defense would buy more Black Hawks, F-35s
Washington – On the same day President Trump rolled out his fiscal 2018 budget, which boosted defense spending, he also asked Congress for $30 billion in extra funding for the Pentagon, in part so it could immediately buy more F-35s and Sikorsky Black Hawks.
The $33 billion supplemental, which Congress would have to approve, would be part of the federal budget for 2017. Congress must pass a six-month budget – or face a federal shutdown — because current federal funding ends on April 28.
Trump’s supplemental request also has money to fund the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and begin building a barrier along the border with Mexico. About $1 billion is included for planning, design and construction of the “first installment” of the border wall, which would receive additional money in Trump’s budget blueprint for 2018.
But most of the money – about $30 billion – would go to the Pentagon.
The White House did not break down its request for spending by weapons program. But it indicated it wanted Congress to approve about $1.6 billion for additional Apaches and Black Hawks, a potential windfall for Sikorsky, which builds the Black Hawks and has been hurt by a cutback in helicopters the Army planned to buy this year.
The supplemental also asks for up to nearly $6 billion for additional F-35s and F-18 Super Hornets for the Navy and more F-35s for the Air Force. Pratt & Whitney makes the engine that powers the F-35.
The budget also contains an additional $691 million for Navy shipbuilding, but that’s probably earmarked for a DDG-51 destroyer and not additional submarines. But the supplemental also contains additional money for ship and submarine maintenance, an issue the Navy said is a top priority and is keeping some ships and subs from staying at sea.
The president also requested additional money to hire more Army and Air Force personnel and $5 billion more to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State, increasing drone capabilities and filling intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
That $5 billion would be procured through the Overseas Contingency Operation Account, an emergency account that pays for U.S. military actions overseas.
But the rest of the money, more than $25 billion, would have to be offset by cuts to domestic programs or the lifting of budget caps, presenting Congress with hard choices.
The White House is already under fire from Democrats, and some Republicans, for proposing on Thursday a $54 billion boost in the 2018 Pentagon budget, at the expense of dozens of domestic programs and agencies that would be eliminated or cut down.
But defense hawks say even more money for defense is needed.
“It is clear to virtually everyone that we have cut our military too much and that it has suffered enormous damage,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
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