WASHINGTON – America’s military budget is set to grow for a fifth consecutive year to near-historic highs in 2020 as lawmakers push increases in defense spending for next year despite opposition from some liberals in Congress and deficit hawks.
The Trump administration has proposed $750 billion in defense spending as part of its budget request to Congress for next year, as well as steep cuts to domestic programs in health care and education.
House Democrats have proposed increasing defense spending to $733 billion a year — an increase in line with inflation — in exchange for GOP support for an increase in domestic spending that would be twice as large.
Under either budget, the U.S. is expected in 2020 to spend more on its military than at any point since World War II, except for a handful of years at the height of the Iraq war, said Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank focused on foreign policy.
The increase suggests the U.S. military will continue to expand despite Trump’s calls to limit U.S. involvement overseas. It also contradicts predictions by some analysts that Democrats would seek to cut military spending after winning the House.
The Pentagon and White House have argued that nearly two decades of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan left America’s military arsenal at risk of losing the global preeminence it has enjoyed since World War II.
Pentagon officials have said that additional resources are needed to counter military escalations in Russia and China, which have invested heavily in next-generation military weaponry. Russia claims to have already developed a hypersonic missile that can travel faster than the speed of sound, something some defense hawks warn could threaten U.S. missile defense systems that were designed decades ago. And China has also invested heavily in new submarines, warships, and other war equipment as its defense budget ballooned.
A 2018 report put together by the Pentagon in conjunction with the White House stated “all facets of the manufacturing and defense industrial base are currently under threat” and claimed some entire industries within the military supply chain are “near extinction.”
“This strategy-driven budget makes necessary investments in next-generation technology, space, missiles, and cyber capabilities,” Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said in a statement about the military’s budget request. “The operations and capabilities supported by this budget will strongly position the US military for great power competition for decades to come.”
The Congressional Progressive Caucus derailed plans to pass the budget bill, written by Democratic leaders, through the House last week, withholding their support as they accused party leaders of giving away too much in an opening bid in what promises to be a lengthy fight over where the federal government spends public money.
The budget disagreement is also an early stress point between liberals who campaigned on a fundamental reordering of Washington and party leaders pushing a strategy they say is their best shot of achieving higher domestic spending in such programs as public health, highway and transit grants, medical research and national parks.
Democrats’ budget proposes increasing spending on these domestic spending programs by 5.7 percent in one year, while increasing military spending by 2.6 percent, according to a statement by Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., chairman of the Budget Committee and author of the budget plan.
“I don’t want as much defense spending as is in the bill. But, again, we’re involved ultimately in a three-way negotiation on the caps,” Yarmuth told reporters. “We think these numbers are the ones that position us best with the Senate and the White House.”
But members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., have called on the budget to devote as much funding to domestic programs as it does to the defense budget, either through boosted funding on social programs or with cuts to defense.
Omar pointed out that the U.S. already spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined. (That was also the finding of a report by the Pete Peterson Foundation, which argues for lower deficits.) She also said the military budget funds “endless wars that damage our reputation in the world and do not make us any safer.”