Trump looks to deter Russia, China with $686B ask for Pentagon

Moscow – President Trump has requested $686 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal 2019, a major hike over last year’s request and one aimed at strengthening U.S. military advantage over Russia and China.

Pentagon officials on Monday revealed the budget request to Congress, which consists of a $617 billion base budget and $69 billion for its war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account.

The figures — which do not include Energy Department nuclear programs, expected to bring the total national defense request to $716 billion — would buy 10 new Navy ships and add 25,900 more troops in the Army, Navy and Air Force over last year’s request.

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.

Among the major asks in Trump’s second budget request are 77 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters — 48 for the Air Force, 20 for the Marine Corps and nine for the Navy — 24 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets and 10 new Navy ships, including an aircraft carrier, three destroyers, one littoral combat ship and two Virginia-class submarines.

The total aircraft and related systems request amounts to $55.2 billion, while shipbuilding and maritime systems requests come out to $33.1 billion.

The budget also asks for $9.3 billion for space-based systems, $20.7 billion for missiles and munitions and $12 billion for missile defense programs.

Among the biggest increases is $66.8 billion for “mission support activities,” a $16.9 billion jump over the fiscal 2018 request.

Additionally, the administration wants a significant boost in force levels, about 15,600 troops over what Congress authorized in the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. That includes 7,500 more sailors in the Navy, 1,100 more Marines and 4,000 in both the Air Force and Army

The request also calls for three more Air Force combat squadrons over the next five years — from 55 to 58 — and dollars to modernize equipment for a second Army armored combat team.

"Monitoring Desk"

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