A group of 70 lawmakers have urged President Donald Trump to avoid defense cuts that would see a whopping $733 billion budget requested by Pentagon downsized by about 5%, unless he wants to compromise US safety.
Facing a federal budget deficit nearing a 6-year high, Trump has ordered the Pentagon to decrease its budget request for the 2020 fiscal year by $33 billion, a small cut to the initial $733 proposal. But not by lawmakers’ standards. 70 have signed a letter to Trump, accusing him of trampling on his own promise to make the US military stronger than ever.
“Cuts to defense spending will have disastrous consequences for our military readiness, as was proven by sequestration,” lawmakers wrote in a letter, which is expected to be delivered to Trump by the end of the week.
They draw parallels between Trump’s move to slash defense spending to Obama’s administration policy, that, according to the letter, dealt a blow to US military prowess.
“This erosion of American military strength is a direct result of the Obama Administration’s sequestration,” the letter says, reminding Trump of the “core tenant” of his agenda – to boost the US military power.
Trump is facing opposition from within his own party. The effort was championed by Republican Mike Turner (Ohio) and is predominantly partisan, with only one Democrat, Tom O’Halleran (Arizona) jumping in.
The message echoes concerns voiced by the military brass. Incoming commander of the US Central Command Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said on Tuesday that “anything below $733 [billion] would increase risk and that risk would be manifested across the force.”
The cuts envisioned by Trump mean that the defense budget will not increase for the first time on his watch. In 2018, it amounted to $696 billion. In August, Trump signed a $716 billion budget defense bill for fiscal year 2019.
However, last week Trump sounded the alarm over the massive spending which he authorized, tweeting that he hopes to bring to halt “what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race.”
“The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!” the President wrote.
I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2018
The mammoth US military spending has completely overshadowed that of other countries. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported in May that in 2017 the US “spent more on its military than the next seven highest-spending countries combined.” The second place has been firmly taken by China, however, even its impressive $228 billion spent on defense in 2017 is three times lower than the US budget.
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