Trump To Propose Massive And Unnecessary Increase In Military Spending

Reports indicate that President Trump will seek to increase military spending. We don't need to, and we can't really afford it.


President Trump is apparently set to request a rather significant increase in defense spending:

WASHINGTON — President Trump will propose raising military spending by $54 billion — a nearly 10 percent increase — and reducing spending by the same amount across much of the rest of the government, White House officials said on Monday.

In remarks to the nation’s governors during a White House meeting, the president said he would propose a “public safety and national security” budget for the coming fiscal year that prioritizes the military and other public safety requirements.

“This budget follows through on my promise to keep Americans safe,” Mr. Trump said. “It will include an historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States.”

He added that the budget would send a “message to the world in these dangerous times of American strength, security and resolve.”

And he said that the increases in military spending were required to ensure that the United States emerges victorious when it engages in wars with adversaries around the globe.

“We have to start winning wars again — when I was young, in high school and college, people used to say we never lost a war,” the president told the governors. “We need to win or don’t fight it all. It’s a mess like you have never seen before.”

A senior budget official told reporters that most federal agencies would experience a reduction as a result of the increases in military spending. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said foreign aid would face a significant decrease.

The official did not explain why foreign aid, which is a very small fraction of overall government spending and is connected to security concerns abroad, was being targeted for steep reductions.

The budget outline is an early effort by the new administration to make good on Mr. Trump’s campaign promises to drastically reduce government spending in Washington while significantly increasing resources for the military.

Mr. Trump’s proposals will shield entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security from cuts, according to White House officials.

But the increases in military spending will be offset by calls for deep cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and social safety-net programs, the officials said.

The president’s detailed spending plan is still weeks away, and the specifics of what he proposes will face intense scrutiny in Congress, where Republicans are likely to seek changes and Democrats are certain to try to block it.

But the White House is eager to show that Mr. Trump is taking action ahead of a speech he will give Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress. The president plans to use those nationally televised remarks to urge lawmakers to embrace his budgetary vision.

Given Trump’s campaign rhetoric this hardly comes as a surprise, of course. Throughout his time on the campaign trail, Trump bemoaned the allegedly woeful state of the American military and repeated the nonsensical line that we don’t “win” anymore, whatever that means. In this respect, Trump was repeating rhetoric that is really quite common for Republicans, who spent much of the Obama Administration repeating the false claim that the President was neglecting the military and complaining about even the minor budget cuts, which mostly consisted of cuts in the rate of growth of spending rather than actual cuts in baseline spending. that resulted from the agreement that resolved the debt ceiling showdown of the summer of 2011. With the possible exception of Rand Paul, all of the Republicans running for President in 2016 were pressing for increases in military spending, of course, so Trump isn’t exactly out of line with Republican orthodoxy on this one, meaning that he’s likely to get exactly what he wants, and probably much more.

What’s unclear in all of this is how exactly Trump will pay for this increase in spending on the military. The White House is claiming that the President will also propose cuts in spending that will offset much of the expected increase in military spending, but this is difficult to believe. First of all, there are no details as of yet regarding what exactly the White House would cut out of the budget to make up for what would amount to a nearly $60 billion increase in spending on the military. The only program specifically mentioned so far is foreign aid, but that amounts to an infinitessimal portion of the annual Federal Budget, and most certainly not enough to offset the increase in military spending that the President is proposing. There’s also talk about unspecified cuts in discretionary spending but nothing specific is being mentioned and until it is it’s impossible to tell if it will even come close to offsetting the increases to defense spending. Additionally, it’s unclear if the White House is talking about actual cuts in spending or merely cuts in the expected rate of growth of spending, which doesn’t really save any money at all. Perhaps most importantly, the White House’s discussion so far leaves several parts of Trump’s agenda out of the equation, such as the apparent plan to introduce an infrastructure bill that could amount to more than a trillion dollars, his plan to build a border wall, which alone would cost hundreds of billions of dollars according to the most reliable estimates, and his plans for cuts in taxes on individuals and corporations. Finally, of course, there’s the fact that the White House can’t guarantee that Congress will agree to the spending cut requests that the White House might make even if they are real. As a result, what we’re likely to get is a budget with massive spending increases, tax cuts, and an end to the trend of decreasing deficits that started with the budget deal in 2011. All around, a bad deal for the American people.

What’s not clear is what purpose of all this new spending actually is under present circumstances. As Daniel Larison points out, and as I’ve noted on numerous occasions in the past, the United States presently spends far more on its military than any other nation on the planet. According to the most recently available figures, American military spending ranks first in the world, with the next largest budget out of China being some $400 billion fewer than what the U.S. is spending on an annual basis. The comparison to Russia is even wider, with the U.S. spending outranking Russian spending by more than $500 billion per year. Indeed, according to the available figures, the United States spends more on its military than the next seven nations in the top ten list combined, and that includes both Russia and China. If you add in spending by our NATO and other allies such as Israel, Japan, South Korea, and other nations, to our own then the spending differences become even more stark. What, exactly, do President Trump and the Republicans think massively increasing this difference will accomplish? What need that is presently being unmet by the $600 billion per year we’re spending on the Pentagon would an additional ten percent accomplish? Unless there is a coherent answer to that question, then there doesn’t seem to me to be any need for such a massive increase in spending. Moreover, as Larison points out, we could actually cut military spending with no real threat to American national interests if we had a more restrained, less confrontational foreign policy. It’s clear, however, that Trump has no intention of adopting a foreign policy of this type. Indeed, he seems intent on becoming more confrontational, especially with regard to China as well as the war against ISIS. Additionally, Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail indicates we’re likely to see a more confrontational approach to the world in general. In that case, it’s no wonder that Trump wants such a massive increase in defense spending.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Argon says:

    Overcompensating for some internal lack, I suppose.

  2. milprof says:

    Agree with this strongly.

    One quibble: I think Doug underestimates how hard and fast the Trump team could be willing to ax foreign aid. Trump himself, years before he became a candidate, has history of attacking foreign aid as useless, always using terms like “all” , or “every penny of it”.

    The transition team sent out signals that they were contemplating a 50% cut in foreign aid — not 50% cut in growth, but an immediate cut-in-half cut. They signalled an interest in perhaps zeroing entirely our contributions to multilateral aid organizations and zeroing out peacekeeping. Articles on the proposed cuts suggest the total hit to State is 1/3 of its current budget, which would pretty much work out to a 50% whack on foreign assistance if you fence off security and consular programs.

    IF serious, that still only gets you $20B of the needed $60B.

  3. motopilot says:

    Here is Comrade Chaos voicing his thoughts on defense spending during the CNN debate on 12/15/15:

    WOLF BLITZER: “We’re going to talk about Assad in a moment. Mr. Trump, are Americans safer with dictators running the world in the Middle East?”

    DONALD TRUMP: “In my opinion, we’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems; our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had, we would’ve been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now… It’s a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized. A total and complete mess. I wish we had the $4 trillion or $5 trillion. I wish it were spent right here in the United States, on our schools, hospitals, roads, airports, and everything else that are falling apart.”

  4. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    What need that is presently being unmet by the $600 billion per year we’re spending on the Pentagon would an additional ten percent accomplish?

    Exactly. Like all of Trumps so-called actions so far…this is all bluster and no substance. All hat and no cows, as someone said the other day.
    But the real issue I see with this is that once you increase the defense budget by that much…you’re never getting it back in line with reality. That will be the new normal. We’ve seen what happens when you try to make even minor adjustments to the Pentagon’s budget. Trying to re-capture this $54B will, from now on, look like a yuuuge 10% cut.
    Another thing; how exactly is this additional $54B going to make us any safer? “If only the defense budget had been $54B higher 9.11 wouldn’t have happened”, said no one never. Like the so-called presidents Muslim Ban, this is likely to make us less safe. It’s clear these guys are itching for a war. Trump’s brain, Steve Bannon, is a noted apocalypticist.
    I’d be embarrassed to watch this level of incompetence in the highest office, if I wasn’t so alarmed by it.

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    The US spends in total about $45B or about 1% of Federal spending, on foreign aid, this includes economic assistance and military aid (of which Israel and Egypt get the most). Trump could wipe it all and they would still need to find other cuts or increase the deficit. Which leads us to a prediction of the next Repub talking point, just like tax cuts, military spending pays for itself.

  6. JohnMcC says:

    Given what we have learned about the ideology dominant in the WestWing it seems entirely consistent to prepare for war. A yuuuuge war! The greatest war ever!

    As mentioned in the original post there are sure to be considerable revisions to the blueprint when it falls into the maw of Speaker Ryan’s House of Representatives.

  7. CSK says:


    This is how a short-fingered vulgarian buffoon charlatan ignoramus compensates for his glaringly obvious physical and intellectual inadequacies.


    You have to bear in mind that Trump has no recall of what he says from one hour to the next, never mind one day to the next. And neither do his drooling acolytes.

  8. teve tory says:

    1) the average voter has no idea what the government spends on anything.
    2) Democrats can’t cut military spending without republicans whipping the idiots into a froth against the Treasonous DemonCRAPS
    3) Republicans don’t want to cut military spending
    4) Military contractors are loaded, corrupt, and well-connected

    put those factors together and it appears we’ll never get significant “defense” cuts.

    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
    This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron

    -some republican dude, before they became the Party of Stupid

  9. teve tory says:

    PS–If we’re talking F-35s, each plane costs 35.4 million bushels of wheat.

    (That’s over 2 billion lbs of wheat per plane. And we’ve ordered 2,400 of them)

  10. panda says:

    I hate to be the one waging a one tenth defense of Trump, but OBama’s last budget requested only a slightly smaller hike in defense spending. Obama of course, didn’t ask to slash other spending or cut taxes on the wealthy, so it’s not much of a defense..

  11. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Ah, the good old “foreign aid” canard. Which will go nowhere as soon as Israel starts yelling, since they are by far the #1 recipient, and of COURSE no one talking about cutting foreign aid means to include Israel. Just the “bad people.”

  12. Hal_10000 says:

    Even if the offset spending cuts were a good idea, they will not happen. Trump is likely to fund this through debt, like everything else. But I thought we were going to make European countries pull their weight so we had to spend less. Pick a lane.

  13. al-Alameda says:

    They’re (Congressional Republicans) already scheduling keggers in advance of the planned cuts in the EPA, Education, and Medicare and Social Security budgets.

  14. steve says:

    When he was young we won wars? Would that be the Korean War or Vietnam?


  15. Eric Florack says:

    We just got through dealing with 8 years of a president who’sse answer to terror being up world wide, NorK being out of control, Iran building a nuke etc etc etc was shrink the military.

    Oh, wait. That’s the guy you supported.
    Never mind. Your comments make sense now

  16. Eric Florack says:

    And by the way would any of you be interested in listing the programs other than defense, that the Democrats have cut in the last 60 years? Anyone?

  17. Monala says:

    @JohnMcC: But, but… didn’t MBunge say that Trump was less likely to take us to war than any Presidential nominee in recent history?

  18. An Interested Party says:

    Jeez…already in this century we’ve had one president who had to work out his personal problems of feeling inferior to his daddy by starting a war in the Middle East and now we have another who wants to work out his manhood issues by recklessly expanding the defense budget…it’s a pity that the whole country has to pay for the mental problems of these people…

    And by the way would any of you be interested in listing the programs other than defense, that the Democrats have cut in the last 60 years? Anyone?

    I’ll see you and raise you: When have Republicans (who claim to be so worried about the debt and deficits) ever balanced the budget when they had complete control of the federal government? Hell, when have they ever not used deficit spending? Take your time, we’ll all wait…

  19. Paul Hooson says:

    The huge danger in this is either inviting a dangerous arms race that could result in accidental war with Russia, or the other dangerous alternative of Putin believing that a first strike nuclear war against the U.S. could be waged and won. Sadly, many of Putin’s military planners do believe that the Russia could launch a crippling first strike blow and take out our nuclear forces, aircraft carriers and submarines. For the past several years, Russia’s covert military policy was to put together a force of nuclear weapons and cyberwarfare devices that could win a first strike nuclear war.

    In the short term, Trump’s economic policies will hurt those that need services to put huge amounts of cash into a relatively small group of military contractors. In the longer range, war could result from such policy.

    Russia remembers too well what the military hardware buildup of Germany meant to their land, and will never allow another nation to build an army large enough to threaten them. Russia would use a first strike to stop any nation that threatens them. This is the huge danger for the U.S. in any Trump policy here. A U.S. military buildup does not enhance our security and only invites war.

  20. @Hal_10000: Trump never wanted to dismantled NATO or to make Europeans to spend more with Defense so the United States can spend less with Defense.

    His problem is that the Europeans aren’t warring enough. He want more Wars, not less.

  21. Matt says:

    @Eric Florack: What a loaded statement. When have Democrats actually REALLY controlled all branches of the government as the Republicans do now? This is probably when you point out that in theory Democrats had a majority in congress for a couple months….

    I can list attempts galore by the Democrats to cut government spending none of them made it past the Republicans in charge.

  22. David M says:

    On the subject of the Democrats cutting spending, this should probably qualify:

    Obamacare has worked so well that the government is spending less on medical care than they expected before the program was implemented.

  23. Slugger says:

    Let’s see what radical leftist think:
    “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
    BTW, who are we going to fight with all these weapons.

  24. Gustopher says:

    We actually have used an awful lot of cruise missiles, smart bombs, depleted uranium shells, and other military ammunition and hardware that may need to be replaced, and which may have been difficult to replace under sequestration.

    Also, our troops are grossly underpaid. And we don’t have enough translators — we need to offer them higher salaries and pry them from the private sector.

    I’m pretty sure any decently thinking person could come up with a way to increase military spending by 10% that would make sense. Not convinced that will happen here.

  25. Jake says:
  26. Dave Schuler says:

    We need to talk less about how much we’re spending and much, much more about what our military is doing. Spending should be proportional to the tasks we’re asking our military to undertake. We’ve got to train our soldiers for the missions we’re asking them to undertake them, pay them, supply them and so on.

    I’m on record as being in favor of cutting our military spending by 50% but I want to reduce the missions we’re undertaking as well. Last year we had special forces units deployed to 70% of the countries in the world. While I support defending the United States vigorously, I don’t support U. S. imperium.

    If you come out in favor of reducing our military spending you should also say what it is that you don’t want us to do.

  27. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican: Actually, CNN reported yesterday that Afghanistan is the # 1 recipient of foreign aid, with Israel # 2. Of course, Trump’s acolytes don’t care; he’s sticking it to foreigners and they love him for it.

  28. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa: Or, to quote Dickens (only slightly altered), “Please, sir, I want some war.”

  29. Mikey says:


    Also, our troops are grossly underpaid.

    A married E-4 with a high school diploma and three years’ service pulls down around $56K/year. That’s what my daughter earned her first year out of grad school with a STEM PhD. Half the servicemember’s pay is non-taxable allowances, which gives them about a $3K tax advantage.

    That doesn’t count any special pays (sea pay for Navy, hazard pay, parachute pay, other special duty pay) or the full tax exemption they get for time in a combat zone.

    I love our troops–I was one, for the full 20 years–but I don’t think they’re underpaid.

  30. Scott says:

    @Mikey: I was about to say the same thing. If you add in the non-monetary benefits (healthcare, for one) and contributions to retirement, then the compensation is quite good. And yes, I was also in for 20 years.

  31. KM says:


    Also, our troops are grossly underpaid. And we don’t have enough translators — we need to offer them higher salaries and pry them from the private sector.

    Silly boy – the money’s not going to them but to line the pockets of defense contractors and firms. They pound the “support the troops” drum but the troops won’t see a dime. This is a gift to the military-industrial complex, not to the soldiers proper. The places where funding can do the most good is the one place funding never naturally goes.

  32. Pch101 says:

    @Eric Florack:

    I would like to hear your magical plan for North Korea.

    (OK, not really. But let’s make it clear that neither you nor Trump have any plan magical or otherwise for dealing with a rogue state such as NK. Anyone who can read a map or has heard of the Korean War should be able to figure out why no one in the west can simply fix North Korea.)

    Incidentally, Obama’s long-term plan for containing the Chinese — the Asia pivot — is being unwound by your idiot hero. So Trump is actually hurting the US position in Asia, but you mental midgets with your disinformation blogs won’t ever figure that out. You whine like toddlers, yet the toddlers are smarter than you.

  33. JohnMcC says:

    @Dave Schuler: Excellent. In the latest ‘Slate’ there’s a post by Fred Kaplan (‘Trump’s Pointless Defense Budget is a Sure Way To Undermine U.S. Security’) that makes pretty similar points and has numbers. Lots of numbers. Beautiful numbers. Yuuge numbers.

  34. al-Alameda says:

    Lets see: more defense spending, big tax cuts, cuts to “entitlement” programs (aka ‘socialism’), this all seems so familiar? Oh, now I remember, this has been the Republican playbook since Jesus ordered the Germans to bomb Pearl Harbor.

    The difference is, this time Republicans have the votes, and enough control of the rules, to make much of it happen.

  35. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Apropos to a thread about military spending…it’s official…the Mango Mussolini is officially the pu$$y-in-chief:

    President Donald Trump on Tuesday dodged responsibility for a botched mission he ordered in Yemen last month, placing the onus on the military and Barack Obama’s administration instead.
    Bill Owens, the father of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL who died in the operation, demanded an investigation into his son’s death over the weekend. Owens further revealed he couldn’t bear to meet Trump at the airport as Ryan’s casket was carried off the military plane last month.
    Asked about the matter during an interview with Fox News’ “Fox ‘n’ Friends,” Trump repeatedly said “they” were responsible for the outcome of the mission, in reference to the military.
    “This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do,” he said. “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do ― the generals ― who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.

    The buck…it stops with someone else…not the baby-king.

  36. Pete S says:

    I don’t think Trump is capable of analyzing beyond “more money means bigger and better”. I do think he understands that his combination of loudness and idiocy in international relations may lead to America needing a bigger and better military after he starts a bunch of wars, whether accidentally or on purpose. So more spending.

  37. sam says:
  38. SenyorDave says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: “This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do,” he said. “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do ― the generals ― who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.

    Maybe occasional movie producer Steve Mnuchin can produce a movie called “Losing CPO Ryan”, and Trump can do a scene where he blames the generals. What a pathetic excuse for a leader Trump is.

  39. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:


    Trump can do a scene where he blames the generals.

    Trump approved this mission. Not Obama.
    And when it was underway he was not in the Situation Room…but was on Twitter promoting an upcoming TV appearance he had scheduled.
    When something big happens…and it’s when, not if…he will be MIA. And he will claim it’s someone else’s fault.
    You would have to be a retard to have voted for this man.

  40. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
    Sorry…that was unfair to retards.

  41. teve tory says:

    Trump did say one correct thing recently, that should be part of the national discussion:


    “We spent $6 trillion in the middle east, and we have potholes at home. We should fix that.”

    But then he turned around and suggested this nonsense.

  42. teve tory says:

    Things you could do instead with $54 billion:

    Mail every household in America a check for $422.

    Give every college student in america a grant for $2,634

  43. teve tory says:

    Give every homeless person in America a $108,000 house.

  44. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:
  45. Monala says:

    @Slugger: Yeah, what a radical leftist Republican President Dwight Eisenhower was!

  46. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Butters on Trumps budget proposals:

    “It’s dead on arrival. It’s not going to happen. It would be a disaster,” Graham said.
    He said that if Trump limits the State Department’s ability to exercise “soft power” he is “never going to win the war.”
    “What’s most disturbing about the cut in the State Department’s budget, it shows a lack of understanding,” Graham said.

    There is a reason we like to elect adults, and not babies with tiny hands.