The Trump administration is proposing a $4.7 trillion federal budget for fiscal year 2020 that includes $750 billion for national defense – a $34 billion increase, or about 5 percent, over what Congress enacted for fiscal year 2019, Space News informed.
Of the $750 billion, $718 billion is for the Defense Department and $32 billion is for national security programs performed by the Department of Energy’s nuclear laboratories and other agencies.
To fund the large increase to defense spending, the administration is proposing cuts of 5 percent to non-defense programs and is pumping up the Overseas Contingency Operations account from $69 billion in 2019 to $165 billion in 2020. Past administrations have used the OCO account to boost the military budget, as OCO is not subject to Budget Control Act spending caps. But this year’s OCO boost is unusually large, especially at a time when Trump is reducing overseas military presence.
Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought defended the OCO gambit. He told reporters at the White House on Monday that the administration sees OCO as a legitimate vehicle to fund national defense priorities. Congress in past budget deals agreed to add more money to defense only if it’s matched by increases to non-defense agencies. Trump wants to “break that paradigm,” Vought said. “Until that paradigm is broken we need to look for other opportunities to continue to rebuild the military.”
Within the $750 billion request, the administration is seeking $576 billion in the Pentagon’s baseline budget, the limit set by the Budget Control Act, $165 billion in OCO funds and $9 billion in emergency funds for disaster relief and to partially fund the wall the President wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump’s budget request will not be well received on Capitol Hill. With Democrats in control of the House, a budget that boosts military spending and slashes domestic programs is a political nonstarter, analysts said.
“The FY20 budget is dead on departure as Congress won’t agree with a defense increase that rely on OCO to sidestep the Budget Control Act nor will it support 5 percent cuts to non-defense discretionary funding,” commented defense industry analyst Byron Callan, of Capital Alpha Partners.
Congress also will challenge the idea that the 2020 budget top line is growing while the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Syria is shrinking, noted Travis Sharp, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Space News adds.
Pentagon officials will argue that savings from troop withdrawals are being invested in advanced technology to compete with China and Russia. “But Congress may oppose treating defense dollars so interchangeably, particularly when doing so includes gimmicks like the administration’s proposal to evade the Budget Control Act spending caps by redirecting funds into the OCO account,” Sharp said.
The 2020 budget seeks funds to establish the U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. Details of the Pentagon’s space funding request will be released on Tuesday.