Washington: The United States, whose annual military expenditure of $600 billion plus is more than that of the defence budgets of the next seven countries combined (China, India, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, and Russia), plans to hike its military spending by near ten per cent.
The Donald Trump administration has indicated that the increased allocation will come at the expense of cuts to other federal agencies, including the State Department, which effectively means a cut in US foreign aid, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the favorite target of Conservative Republicans who think it puts a crimp on business.
Budget officials said in a background briefing on Monday that President Trump intends to seek a $54 billion hike in military spending (which would be more than India’s entire defence budget) to boost what he has repeatedly termed as a “depleted US military,” as part of muscling up America which he thinks is being taken for granted around the world.
In a statement at the White House on Monday morning, Trump said that his budget would put “America first” by focusing on defence, law enforcement and veterans, using money previously spent abroad.
India will largely remain unaffected because it gets negligible US aid. But countries across the world, starting with Afghanistan and Pakistan, which subsist on US dole, to Zambia and Zimbabwe, which get a pittance through US aid programs, will feel the pinch.
The muscularization of America is part of Trump’s campaign promise where he repeatedly said the US had been weakened militarily by his predecessors, taken for granted by adversaries, and taken for a ride by allies.
“We’re also putting in a massive budget request for our beloved military,” the President said in a speech last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “We will be substantially upgrading all of our military, all of our military, offensive, defensive, everything, bigger and better and stronger than ever before. And hopefully, we’ll never have to use it, but nobody’s gonna mess with us, folks, nobody.”
The budget also assumes Washington’s NATO allies and other protectorates will pony up a greater share of the expenses for getting American security, as pledged by Trump. “This budget expects the rest of the world to step up in some of the programs that this country has been so generous in funding in the past,” an official from the Office of Management and Budget, one of four who briefed the media, said.
The officials said most federal agencies other than those involved in security will see their budgets reduced to make room for 10 percent higher spending on defence, but social security and safety net programs would not be touched.
The budgetary plans are not final yet because much of the allocation will be decided by Congress, where lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican, will seek to impose their own priorities. But the Trump White House has pretty much set the agenda and the eventual outcome will follow a negotiation over details.
The broad outlines emerging from the budget briefing suggests a more muscular approach under President Trump with the state department taking a backseat.
Already, there is a noticeable downgrading of Foggy Bottom, with secretary of state Rex Tillerson relegated to a bit player even as Trump’s powerful aides such as Steve Bannon calling the shots across the government, including dealing with foreign policy issues.
In fact, several State Department positions, including special envoy posts created by President Obama to deal with climate change, the Islamic world etc, are expected to be eliminated by the Trump administration.